Protocolo Zero Tinto Wine – 2014

  • Basic info: Rumor Viticultores, Castilla y Leon Protocolo Zero Tinto Wine, 2014. Spanish Table wine
  • Type: red
  • Price estimate: $19 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Dark red to purple. Good legs and a lot of them.
  • Smell: Wood, sawdust, sour cherry.
  • Taste: Petrol, mineral. Aftertaste of dark fruit. High alcohol – slight burn in back of the throat/ Some cherry and a high tannin. Hot.
  • Conclusions: Very complex wine, very old world smell. Extremely strong wine.
  • Other notes: On the first day, I could not drink this wine. I generally like big wines likes zinfandels, but this was something else. The overwhelming taste of alcohol and mineral just didn’t taste good. The second day, it was smoother and the alcohol taste had dissipated somewhat. It also had some notes of chocolate and coffee in it, but it still isn’t a wine I would drink without a meal.
  • From the bottle: No notes on the bottle, but from the wine store, “exotic and aromatic, with heady scent of rose, raspberry and stewed strawberry fruit share the stage with honeyed flowers, deep mineral earth and fine tannins. This wine continues to open for days, taking on rich chocolate-raspberry, blackberry liqueur, tobacco and earth with tart skins of black cherry and cranberry and crunchy berry seeds.” 15% alcohol by volume.


The other side

At the beginning of this month I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end of the month without going nuts. I worked every weekend this month and long days during the week. I managed to start my internship during one of the busiest times of the school year and we had Leia to deal with in the middle of everything. Thankfully Bob has been absolutely fantastic and understanding about how draining this month has been and I did manage to make it out the other side with my sanity relatively intact.

I will admit, the wine helped. A glass (or two) with dinner or on the back patio after a trying day is great for regrouping and getting thoughts together. The furry boys have also helped. Tigger is still a little unsettled and he is hanging around me more than he did before, but he is also getting along with Arthas really well. They seem to have an understanding, although exactly what that is I’m not sure.

Arthas … well, he is really a good boy. He tries to be good and to listen, and he mostly does. He is still a puppy (he’s two) so he has some maturing to do, but in general, he’s a happy boy. He has also decided that he gets a chair outside when we hang out on the patio. Like most dogs, he thinks he is part human.

Chiesa Carlo – Roero Arneis 2014

  • Basic info: Chiesa Carlo Roero Arneis Quin Wine, Italy, 2014.
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $20 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Light yellow. Translucent with medium legs.
  • Smell: Lemon and orange. (Bob got anise and licorice smell, but I honestly didn’t get any of those)
  • Taste: Lemon, chive. Tangy, but not grapefruit-like. Crisp and a descent body. (Bob found mineral and some scallion for his tasting note.)
  • Conclusions: We both really liked this wine, but not as much as the vermentino. It had a really nice texture and a good, clean taste, but for me it was good, but not great. I liked it, and I would have it again, but I am not going out of my way to find more.
  • Other notes: This was the second in the mixed case that we ordered. So far we are really happy with the wines, and I can’t wait to try some of the reds.
  • From the bottle: No notes on the bottle, but from Chamber Street, “wine is bright straw yellow and has persistent flavors of green apples, stone fruit and white flowers with just a touch of honey.” 13.5% alcohol by volume.


Wellington – Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

  • Basic info: Wellington Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, CA, 2008.
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: No clue. We had this one for a few years and just got around to opening it.
  • Look: Very dark red with tinges of brown at the edges. Opaque. Legs were bubbly, but very present.
  • Smell: Blackberry and blueberry with mineral.
  • Taste: Mineral taste up front. I said very little tannin, Bob called medium to high tannin. Dark fruit with a coffee aftertaste.
  • Conclusions: Ok at best. We drank a glass each, but neither of us had a desire to go back for a second glass or even pour a glass the next day. I think the wine had oxidized a little and while it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good either.
  • Other notes: We ended up getting this bottle a few years ago either from Woot or an online wine club that we tried (and didn’t keep). We had a few bottles of it and I really didn’t like it the first time I tried it, which is why this bottle sat in the house for so long. We decided to try it again, and while it was better than I remember, I still don’t care for it.
  • From the bottle: No tasting notes on the bottle and the winery doesn’t have notes for this year anymore. 13.7% alcohol by volume.


Asparagus Risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto

When I use to watch Top Chef (when we had cable) risotto was the downfall of many a chef. It is considered complicated and exacting and labor intensive. A perfect risotto may be all of those things, but I find risotto one of my “go to” dishes. It is pretty straight forward, has endless options for flavors and can generally be made with things I have on hand. Case in point, asparagus risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto.


I was feeling a bit lazy today and didn’t want to go out to grab something to eat. I wanted something filling and tasty, but I really didn’t know what. Part of me wanted quinoa tacos, but I don’t have the makings for the salsa or any taco shells, so that would have required a trip to the grocery. Instead I looked at my fridge and pantry and came up with risotto. I didn’t have any white wine opened, and I didn’t feel like opening another bottle of wine just for the risotto, so I skipped it. I used what I had and it came out pretty darn great. Bob said it was my best risotto version yet.

Here is the thing about risotto. It really isn’t hard. Yes, it takes time and you have to pay attention to it, but it isn’t the impossible dish chefs can make it out to be. It doesn’t require constant stirring, but you do need to stir some. It doesn’t have to be weighed and measured and timed exactly right, but you have to be careful not to over or under-cook the rice. It takes care, but no more than some meat dishes that can easily be over done and dried out. If you are not going for pure perfection, you can get a very tasty dish.



  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • 1 small, sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 oz. asparagus
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (about)
  • 1/4 cup kale pesto (or whatever pesto you have on hand)
  • 3 oz. grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan (about 1 tablespoon)

Heat the broth in a small, covered pot.

Wash and chop the asparagus – pieces should be about 3/4 of an inch or so. Small dice the onion and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the sun-dried tomatoes (or just buy the pre-cut ones – I like the vacuum packed varieties). Grate the cheese.

Heat a pan of olive oil. When hot, add garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about three to five minutes. Add rice and coat. Cook about two to three minutes, stirring frequently. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add about 3/4 cup of warm vegetable broth and stir. When liquid has absorbed, add a tiny bit more salt and pepper, then another 3/4 cup of broth. Allow to cook over medium or slightly lower heat. When liquid has been mostly absorbed, stir then add 1/2-3/4 cup more broth and stir again. After third addition of the broth, add asparagus and mix well.  After the fourth addition of broth, add sun-dried tomatoes. I added more salt and pepper here, but I generally go light on the salt and wanted to make sure it had enough. Keep adding broth, 1/2-3/4 cup at a time until the rice is fully cooked and you have used most, if not all of your liquid. One caution – make sure the liquid is warm and you wait until the previous liquid is absorbed before adding more.

Remove from heat and stir in pecorino cheese until it is fully combined. Add pesto and mix well. Squeeze a little lemon over the whole pan and mix again. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

I had kale pesto on hand since I made batches and batches of it last month, but if you want to make it yourself ….

  • 1 bunch kale leaves, stems removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • honey – 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on taste
  • salt
  • olive oil – about 1/3 cup (I think – I never measure, so it could be more or it could be less)

Place kale, garlic, almonds, salt, and lemon in food processor. Chop, scraping the sides between rounds. When everything is chopped finely, add honey and olive oil and mix again. Add cheese at the end (I usually add the cheese in a bowl and mix that in by hand). Adjust seasoning as needed.


Gros Ventre – Vermentino, 2016

  • Basic info: Gros Venrtre Vermentino, El Dorado, CA, 2016.
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $23 (from online wine store (Chamber Street Wines – NYC wine store that also sells online)
  • Look: Pale yellow, translucent. Medium legs.
  • Smell: peach, fresh apricot and a vague honey smell.
  • Taste: Clean. Apple, mineral. Soft wine but has a nice tang.
  • Conclusions: Bob called this one of the best white wines he has ever had and I have to agree. It it stunning and really drinkable. It tastes incredibly smooth and light and while very different than the last two whites that we liked, it is one that I will look for again.
  • Other notes: I hate to admit it, but I think I am really getting back into white wines. The last three that we had I loved, and I can’t say the same for the reds. I love red wine, but now that I’m finding whites that are not as grapefruit-y, I am really enjoying them. I also loved the winery information on this one. They use sustainable farming practices and lean organic and bio-dynamic which you can taste the care in the wine. Once we drink down our current stock, I am probably going to try a few more from them.
  • From the bottle: No tasting notes on the bottle, but from the winery, “This Vermentino has been co-fermented with a touch of Picpoul Blanc, which brings bright, refreshing acidity to complement the minerality found on the palate. It offers notes of citrus leaf, lemon zest, white flowers, and a hint of Nashi pear.” 12.6% alcohol by volume.



Bob and I said goodbye to Miss Leia this morning. She had ten good years, almost eleven, and for a kitten that was given about two years, I’ll count that as a success.

Leia wasn’t a conventionally cute cat, or even a conventional cat. She often acted more like a dog, coming to greet us when we came home and she liked to be in the same room as us. When it was cold, she liked Bob’s lap and she seemed to love people. Her nose was much commented on and she didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be funny looking. I always thought she was beautiful and adorable and she will always have the best paws. She was also the sweetest kitten and she loved everyone – even Arthas after a time. Her passing leaves a very large hole.

Leia got sick at that November holiday (that I simply refuse to acknowledge anymore) and she fought to get better, but ultimately she could not hold out any longer. This week we knew it was time and she knew it too. I fell in love with that cat the first time I saw her, as a 6 month old kitten with a sinus infection. I loved her as I held her and pet her as the vet helped her pass and I will continue to love her.

The past twelve months have been rough. Jessie, Gracie and now Leia. The pets that defined my thirties are slowly leaving. The plan to is just enjoy the boys for a while and give Tigger and Arthas some stability. That is the plan, but I’m not ruling out anything.

Garson – Tannat, 2015

  • Basic info: Garzon Tannat Reserve, Uruguay, 2015.
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $20 (from local wine store)
  • Look: Deep, inky ruby color that sticks to the glass. Significant legs, probably high alcohol wine.
  • Smell: Dark cherry fuit.
  • Taste: Bitter on first sip. High tannin structure. Dark stone fruit, mineral and forest floor/leather.
  • Conclusions: This is a wine I had to taste over two days to really assess. The first day, it was super strong and all I really got was bitter. The second day was better, with the fruit coming trough more, but I still didn’t care for it. This might be the textbook definition of a “big, bold” wine and I can see lots of people liking it, but I’m not really one of them. With some decanting, I can drink it with food, but it is not one that I’m going to have a full glass of, much less a second glass.
  • Other notes: I think I’ve mentioned before that we belong to two wine clubs, one from Oregon where we get six bottles every six months, and one local wine club that is two bottles each month. This one of of the local wine club wines. I’m glad I tried it and it isn’t something I would ever pick up on my own, but I didn’t really like it. I found it bitter (but then again, I find broccoli bitter too) and thick. It paired ok with food and it was the first time I tried this varietal (or even heard of it) so that was something. When I did a little research, it turns out this varietal is known for the tannin structure – it is where the grape gets it’s name. If you like high tannin wines, you might like this, but this one was not for me.
  • From the bottle: No tasting notes on the bottle, but from the wine store, “A juicy full bodied wine. Rich purple in color with very fresh aromas reminiscent of red and black fruits. A strong impression on the mouth with tannins and mineralogy that transform into a wine with great local soil identity.” 14.5% alcohol by volume.


Yes, that is Leia on the table. She hasn’t been feeling well lately and I don’t have the heart to kick her off unless we are eating. Poor kitty. But she does make the picture much more interesting.

Guillen – Pinot Noir, 2015

  • Basic info: Guillen – Esteban Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon – 2015
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $25 (wine club estimate – the winery does not seem to sell direct to the public, so I”m not sure how to acquire this one)
  • Look: Transluscent ruby red in color. Medium legs, prob. medium to high alcohol content.
  • Smell: dark fruit/cherry with a hint of mineral. Nutmeg.
  • Taste: Subtle, smooth, cherry. Very light tannin structure.
  • Conclusions:One of the best pinot noir ever. Super smooth and good depth of flavor. Lots of layers.
  • Other notes: This was one of our Oregon wine club wines. Bob and I get six bottles every six months, and we save them for our cheese night dinners each month. This has worked out really well for us – good wine, good cheese and usually good company. All of the notes for this wine are from Bob since I have an irritating cold and can’t smell much, and everything tastes off. Bob isn’t a huge pinot noir fan, he prefers bigger wines in general, but this is the second pinot from this club that he is gaga over. We actually ordered a half case of one from the last club shipment, and if I can figure out how to order this one, we may be getting another half case – after I recover from the cold and determine if I like it as much as he does.
  • From the bottle: No tasting notes on the bottle. From the club notes, “For being so young, the wine is drinking fabulously well but will certainly reward whatever patience you can muster for it. Black cherry, blackberry fruit along with the unmistakable baking spice component that comes from the whole cluster fermentation that Jesus carefully manages on the wine.” 13.5% alcohol by volume.


Spicy Sweet Potato Filling

I had every intention of following a recipe and making sweet potato empanadas. Every intention. But, after work and being pretty tired, I got a little lazy and decided to wing it. I did try making the empanada dough, and it came out ok, but it needed some definite chilling time to help make it flaky. The filling, however, I decided to just see what I had, and go with instinct. I sort of wanted pizza for dinner, and mildly hoped this would not work so we would have to get pizza for dinner, but I ended up really liking this. The filling also became quesadillas later in the week.

I stared with one sweet potato and did a small dice on it. I also chopped one shallot and a little garlic. I added all of these to a pan and cooked for a few minutes before adding about 1/2 cup vegetable broth. I cooked this, covered, for about twenty minutes while I tried to figure out the dough and tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

To the potato filling I added some spinach, pinto beans and cooked just until the spinach wilted. I did end up making empanadas with this – a little cheese, a little dough – but I had too much dough for each one. But the filling.  Oh the filling was good.


  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. adobe sauce (from chipolte pepper)
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach
  • Mozzarella cheese (as topping)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • olive oil

Dice sweet potato into small pieces. Slice shallots and mince garlic. Rough chop spinach after cleaning well.

Heat a teaspoon olive oil in pan and when hot add garlic and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until shallot begins to soften. Salt and pepper lightly then add sweet potato. Cook, stirring for a few minutes, then add broth and adobe. Mix together and cover. Lower heat to low and cook for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done.

Uncover pan and return heat to medium. add pinto beans and cook 1 minutes, then add spinach and cook, stirring until spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine with cheese and some dough like substance (tortillas, wonton skins, empanada dough, a pie shell, etc) and bake.