Time to Breathe

There are some evenings that just require a little more self-care than others.  After a tough conversation with your boss,  the day your dog ate your favorite boots, the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Or any day with a three-year old tornado.  This evening, I needed a little something extra. So while my husband has my daughter out for a date, I opened a sample I have been looking forward to, a 2010 Wild Horse Merlot.

After a couple disappointing reds this past weekend, I knew good old Merlot would not let me down.  The winemaker suggested a hearty Marinara or braised beef for pairing, so I knew I was taking a risk opening it with my dinner of cheese and crackers.  But I guess I was feeling a little “wild”.   

Baked berries, cedar, and a bit of spice on the nose.  My first sip told me that the wine lived up to its name.  With some time in the bottle, this wine would mellow and turn into something special.  (If you only knew all the horse puns I resisted here.)  For tonight, the best I could do was give it some time to breathe.  I know how that feels.

After about thirty minutes, I tried it again.  Red fruit with a backbone.  Bright cherry, round plum.  Classic Merlot and just was I was looking for tonight.  The spice and cedar added depth and balance.  Sometimes a wine just needs some time to relax into itself.  A little air, a little time, a little space.  Amen. 

It is no wonder why Paso Robles is getting so much attention.  I would love to see where this wine is going.  I know where I am going.  To my couch, with a remote, and a glass of  Wild Horse Merlot.  I promise I’ll be much more enjoyable in thirty minutes.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}

Thanks, Giving, and Connection

At this time of year, many of us are rushing around, trying to decide on the perfect appetizer,on table settings and decor, and pairing wines that will fit the budget but still impress our guests. And some are trying to figure out where they will get their next meal. Or how to pay the electric bill. Or wishing they had an electric bill to pay. Between the destruction in the wake of the hurricane and the current unemployment across the country, the needs we see around us can be overwhelming. How can we help? How can we possibly make a difference when the need is everywhere and so much bigger than us?

Fourteen years ago, there was one man, in a dark place, with no home and very little in his pocket. He saw a family and recognized a need. A need he deemed greater than his, and he chose to do something. With the last of his money, he went to the store to pull together what he could to give the family a meal on Thanksgiving. When he returned, they were gone, so he distributed the food to others. One man, one meal, and a giving heart.

Flash forward to 2010. I am proud to say that man became my Brother-in-law and that act of kindness has become Gobble, Gobble, Give. The man who chose to give, when he had nothing to give, increased his efforts. Healthy, happy, and successful by any measure, he continues to build, continues to give. What began as one man and one meal grew to an organization with groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and NYC. An organization that fed 5,000 people that year.

Here is an excerpt of a letter I wrote to him in 2010 (shared with permission):

“Growing up, there are several Bible stories that are the staples. You hear them over and over again. Some have impact, but most, I think don’t get really processed until later in life, when you have the ability to see things in a new light. One of those stories is about how Jesus takes a boy’s lunch, multiplies the bread and fish, and is able to feed a hungry crowd of 5000.

I had heard it many times, but I didn’t process it until I heard your story and the results from this Thanksgiving. The miracle that was written about in Matthew seemed like just that….a miracle…nothing practical to apply in life. A one time event. But it wasn’t.

Christ took the lunch of a boy who was willing. It wasn’t much when he started, just a willingness to share what he had, but when he was finished, 5000 people ate that day. A miracle.

What you have done with Gobble, Gobble, Give is just that to me. A miracle. A compassionate heart and the willingness to help others has exploded into this HUGE thing. It is so wonderful to see. I wanted to let you know the effect it has had on me. You didn’t feed my belly, but you fed my soul. “

And so last year, we began Gobble, Gobble, Give in Austin. And this year they are adding Santa Monica. The miracle continues to grow. If you live near any of these locations, it is easy to participate and it only requires a plate of food, two hours of your morning, and your willingness to be used. If you don’t live near, your donation can help make it possible.

I am grateful for his example and for all that I have been given. I am grateful for the chance to give just a small portion of that next Thursday and throughout the year. Won’t you join us in giving others a happy Thanksgiving?

Fond Memories-Robert Mondavi

There are some wines that invite an immediate image.  One sip and you are transplanted, to a memory or an ideal.  Robert Mondavi’s 2010 Napa Valley Pinot Noir conjures images of fallen leaves and cashmere sweaters, blackberry brambles and tartan blankets.  It is just what I want from a Pinot Noir.

Many years ago, I spent a week of early autumn in the hills of Santa Rosa.  We picked blackberries for cobbler in the late morning sun, trudged through tall, crisp grasses on afternoon walks, and shared blankets and stories in the evening.  Bottle after bottle, I drank in Sonoma and felt like I was home.  The bottle says “Carneros,” but I taste Santa Rosa.

If the sense of smell is that which is most closely affiliated with memories, then this wine has the potential to help you make some fabulous ones.  Blackberry, nutmeg, and soft oak.  The fruit bursts on the palate and slowly fades to sweet, woodsy spice.  I chose to pair the wine with a pork tenderloin.  I covered the bottom of the pan with sliced onion and peppers, coated the tenderloin with several herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I tossed fingerling potatoes in rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I served them with a salad of mixed greens, red pear, and Maytag blue cheese. 

The pairing was quite nice.  The herbs enhanced the fruit, the oak carried the wine through the cheese, and the pear played nicely with the nutmeg notes.  I would buy this wine again in a heartbeat.  Another nice pairing would be a salad with blackberries and hazelnuts with goat cheese medallions.  You could go in many directions with this wine.

The first piece of writing I put out publically was a poem, an ode to a wine that brought me back to an afternoon in Sonoma.  That is what a good wine does.  It gives you a piece of a time and place.  It speaks to your closely held memories and can transport you.  Thank you, Robert Mondavi, for the brief vacation on a Sunday evening.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wine from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own. The photo of a Carneros vineyard was provided by my father-in-law.}