Category Archives: Food & Drink

A January Overview (Happy It’s Almost February)

So far 2017 has been extremely hectic, chaotic, distressing, you get the drift. My aunt passed away without too much suffering (thanks to hospice), and my mother went home. On Mom’s flight home, she was again required to spend the night in the layover city–this time because of weather in Kalamazoo. After that, she wasn’t sure she wanted to fly again–and my son’s wedding is this spring on the beach in California. But now she feels a little better and is going to look for a dress for the wedding this week (so, yay!).

Kitties are better, although today Pear is getting an ultrasound because something is wrong with her bladder–and we need to know what. The ultrasound has been an option for months, but I’ve put it off because of the cost. I spent so much (on my credit card) in January on veterinary care that the ultrasound no longer looks as expensive because it’s a “drop in the bucket.” Ugh. I think those of us who can and will pay for good veterinary care for our animals are subsidizing the salaries of veterinarians (and clinic costs). I just wish that money went to treat more animals, but I know that not all vets are good about pro bono work.

Speaking of cats, did you see this article? They needed a study to prove that cats are as smart as dogs? I thought that the decision was made a long time ago (cats are smarter ;)).

On another note, we’re still using Home Chef. Don’t turn up your nose at that idea. I don’t know a soul who really has the time or inclination to plan and deliver on 21 meals every single week–and to have 2-3 of them taken off the list makes the other meal planning more rewarding and less onerous.

Steelhead Trout Niçoise

Mojito Lime Chicken

The trout was fabulous–and there was enough salad left for lunch the next day. I also made Mojito Lime Chicken.

And I made Chicken with Basil-Pecorino Cream Sauce. I haven’t made a single Home Chef meal that wasn’t delicious. I served the gardener the basil chicken that looked like the recipe card.

I set his chicken on a tiny bit of the cream sauce because of his lactose intolerance. But for myself I didn’t hold back, and so my plate didn’t look as “well-plated” as his did. Or as the recipe card.

Oh man, was it ever good! Tonight we’ll have a non Home Chef meal of mushroom and cheese omelet. I am an expert omelet maker. I learned from watching  The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, on TV decades ago. Anybody remember him? Great personality, good teaching skills, and an unfortunate (and terrifying) end to his public career (look him up!). By the way, I also learned about the “chef’s assistant” from Jeff–only he chose sherry and I choose chardonnay (or sake).

I have been revising the memoir because I want to send it to someone for a thorough read-through now that I have rethought and reorganized the structure.  I think I have reached the point that it’s ready. I don’t want to go too crazy with line-editing if it still needs a lot more “big” work.

Also, I have an offer from a publisher for my poetry/prose chapbook about family history. Stay tuned on that one.

Now that things are finally starting to settle down over here, it’s TAX SEASON for me and the business. Ick ick and ick.

Have a good one this week, friends!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Family history, Food & Drink, Memoir, Nonfiction, Publishing, Writing

Lazybones Blog Post

After a difficult week, I offer some of the more positive views I experienced (outside of my post-election distress, complicated migraine, screwed-up-and-painful leg, and ridiculously hectic travel). Today my father has been gone exactly 18 months.

My peace pole (built and erected by my father) as seen through the palms as a sort of liminal space. Here it is in Korean and English. The other sides are Spanish and Hebrew. Dad chose the languages.

We were in California again this past week. The Virginia Dare winery crusher building in Rancho Cucamonga. The Virginia Dare wine company is close to 200 years old and is now owned by the Coppola family.

The gate of the medical office complex that is part of the Virginia Dare center now. The metal grape leaves are a nice touch. Sorry it is so crooked. I thought I had that problem solved, but apparently not.

A mug with my life’s motto (the mug itself belongs to someone else, but the wine is mine): I just want to drink wine & pet my cat. Or cats. Which I can’t do when I am in California.

The view of Phoenix when I drove back in from California.

And when I got to the house I discovered that Pear and Tiger had decided to share the window seat.

Memoir Writing: Structure

I am doing some writing–just enough to feel as if I am writing. Rewriting my memoir into chronological order is really not difficult. The material is almost completely written–and it seems to more effortlessly fall into place this way. I remember now when I first started putting the  story in a different order. I was in a workshop where the students insisted that because the main secret that is revealed in my book is not HUGE, as in not huge for the public and only huge for me and for my family, that I had to reveal just enough of it up front so that nobody would get the wrong idea. I think this started me on the wrong path that has gone on now for years. I hope my new revelation that they were wrong is correct, otherwise I don’t know how to tell the story. So I am following some hopefully wise advice from Lewis Carroll:

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Food & Drink, Liminality, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing, Writing Talk

Another Glass of Chardonnay (or Sake)

Somehow I got conned tricked into an online wine club (by accident). I discovered they were putting $40 every billing cycle on my credit card. I like wine, but I sure can’t use $40 a month! So I placed an order for the wine I had coming to me and quickly cancelled the subscription.

One of the wines I ordered was Rumpus, both because it was advertised as a popular chardonnay and because the name reminded me of “Let the wild rumpus start!” from Where the Wild Things Are.

When I first opened the bottle, I liked that the wine had no bite, no aftertaste, and was very smooth and good tasting. But the next time the wine (from the previously opened bottle) was sharp to my tongue and a bit abrasive–like a typical cheap chardonnay. The third time I drank from the bottle, the sharpness had calmed down, but it tasted like a very average chardonnay.

Notice on the back the talk of “Angel funding.” That was my $40 per month. I’m an Angel, but when I cancelled I had to turn in my wings and halo. Now I’m just a wine parasite.

A long time ago, I promised you more chardonnay reviews.  The problem is that if I don’t take good notes and if that one glass turns into 1.5 or even 2, I forget all my very important observations.

Here are some wines I’ve tried since that review last December.

Qu is another wine club offering. It was adequate. Actually adequate is not bad because that means that it is a lot better than most house chardonnays in most restaurants, right?

Cloud Break is such a pretty name for a wine. Gosh, where are my notes? That means I have to buy it all over again some day, just to see what I thought.

To my knowledge, the vineyards for this Jerome wine aren’t anywhere near Jerome, Arizona. I heard on TV the other day that there are over 30 wineries in Arizona now, but I kind of turned up my nose. I didn’t care for this Arizona wine. In fact, I thought it was pretty icky and suspect most of them are like this. (I apologize to my dear friend I gave a bottle of Arizona wine to yikes). Any Arizona wineries out there want to prove differently, email me for my shipping address. I accept free wine for review.

If I drink more than a glass or two of chardonnay a week, my stomach gets free-ranging acid. So I had to find a remedy. Most people would switch to red wine. Or vodka. Or stay away from alcohol (and chocolate).

My remedy was to switch to sake. It doesn’t seem to bother my stomach, and it’s never disappointing. I buy or order junmai sake because junmai means distilled alcohol has not been added. That assures that the wine is most likely gluten-free (the celiac has had good luck with junmais).

Fun sakes are Mura Mura: I’ve enjoyed four of its locations: river, canyon, mountain, and meadow. They are all quite different, but delicious. The most unusual is mountain: sweet, , full, rich,  and milky white. It fills the tongue beautifully.  Mountain is perfect for drinking by itself (without food). River feels and looks thinner, has a milder taste, and is pale yellow. Canyon and meadow are closer to river than they are to mountain.

Now Mura Mura makes a pear orchard sake, but I have yet to taste that delicacy.

Here are some other good tasting junmai sakes that are varying prices. Momo Kawa is intense and a bit dry. It’s very good, but not a favorite of mine. I suspect I like the sweeter sakes best. Ozeki is good, sweet, and I might add that it tastes slightly metallic–but even by putting that into words is exaggerating the characteristic.

The differences between junmai sakes are not that different from each other, according to my uneducated palate. I drink these sakes at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. If you want warm sake, order the crap like Gekkeikan that you see in every supermarket.

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On another note, I finished the little free library memoir Monkey Mind and highly recommend it for anyone suffering from anxiety (unless you’re a kid and then it’s not appropriate!). The style is not chronological narrative as I am trying for my memoir (yes, I decided to put it–mostly–in order), but rather more thematically arranged and with a journalistic twist to it (research).

Kana’s selfie shows the best anxiety remedy: cat cuddling!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Food & Drink, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Writing

Pre-Measured Ingredients and a Glass of Wine: My Kind of Cooking

Meal planning and preparation (not to mention cleanup) has always felt like such a burden to me. When I get in the zone, I love to cook, especially if I have a glass of wine. But the thought of planning a menu and shopping for it sends me over the top. Actually doing it practically puts me prone on the couch.

So when I got a coupon for $30 off homechef.com, I thought I’d bite (sorry). I figured that if, for that first week, I could get 3 gourmet meals for 2 for $60 less $30, even if it wasn’t that good, it would be worth it. When I signed up, they even gave me another $10 off. I thought I probably wouldn’t go beyond that first week.

Have you heard of homechef.com? I guess it’s similar to blueapron.com, but from looking at the meals, I suspect that homechef is a little more “gourmet” in flavor. Not sure if they have these companies outside of the United States.

The weekly shipment comes in a padded box with six re-usable ice paks (if you don’t want to keep them, you can empty them out into the sink as the contents are harmless). Each meal’s ingredients are bagged together, with the meats separate in sealed packages. Enclosed is a 9×11 cardstock recipe with photos and other interesting info for each meal.

So far, we’ve had grilled salmon and vegetables, pork chop with honey mustard cream and fingerling potatoes, pesto shrimp and pecorino grits, chicken with green peppercorn sauce, white bean and butternut squash stew with baguette (whole thing except the baguette was gluten free, and the baguette was packaged separately), Thai red curry shrimp, and chicken in cherry red wine sauce (with artichoke gratin). Each meal is enough to eat, although the gardener likes a lot of rice, so I added a little more for two meals–and added mashed potatoes to whichever meal came with mashed carrots. But, boy,was I in for a surprise. Mashed carrots are delicious! I hate cooked carrots as a rule, but now I know that it’s easy to mash them and totally change the flavor and, of course, the texture.

My sauce was too thin because I drank too much wine, but it tasted great anyway

You can choose meals based on gluten-free, low fat, low carb, and so on. When I wanted to find out if the stew was gluten free without the baguette, I emailed them and got a reply very quickly from the chef. Different chefs design the various meals. Every week is different.

Best yet, I can skip any week I want with no penalty–or cancel whenever I want!

Lots of pros to this for me–and mainly it’s the idea that I don’t have to find recipes, make shopping lists, or shop (which I detest). All I have to do is grab my glass of wine and cook for 25-45 minutes on any given night. I don’t have to buy more ingredients than I can use. How many times have you bought a jar of pesto only to use a small amount for a recipe, then figure you’ll use it up later, and it ends up going bad in the fridge? Or if not pesto, other things, right? All you are required to keep on hand is olive oil, salt, and pepper. The recipe cards even tell me how long the ingredients will last before cooking so there’s no guessing if the meat is safe to cook or not. Each meal  at full price (without the discount) is $9.95 per person which is not a bad price for a gourmet meal.

Any cons? Yes. I don’t eat pork, so I ate the other part of the meal, but the gardener said that the pork chops were not very good. He said it was hard to get good pork chops and suggested I not choose those again. With plenty of seafood, chicken, and veggie options, that won’t be a problem. They have beef, too, but I don’t eat that either. The produce is not the quality I like to buy. It’s adequate for the purpose, and it doesn’t affect the flavor of the dishes at all. But it’s not the sort of produce I would make a salad with. And the lime that came with the Thai shrimp was completely dry.

But the ease and the taste of this food is well worth it, to my mind. I’m not usually somebody who takes to “stuff like this,” but I’m enjoying the benefits to homechef.com.

If you want the $30 off discount, I can send you an invite (just let me know your email address). When you refer people they get $30 off–and so does the referring person (which would be me), so we would both benefit (hehehe, she chuckled).

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You can see from the slideshow that I completely forgot to take a pic of the gorgeous Thai shrimp because I was so excited to eat it. It was delicious. So was the stew which you can see in the slideshow.

Anyway, if you try it and hate it, maybe it isn’t right for you. But it works out perfectly for us–two people who don’t want a bunch of leftover ingredients cluttering the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge I used to hear them demanding to be used. Guilt guilt guilt.

What else is going on besides cooking? Work. Always plenty of that. Then, also,  I’ve been revising some short story drafts that have lingered on my computer. We’ll see how that goes. Kitties are well. Kana and Sloopy Anne like to play Hot Pursuit together.  Hot Pursuit is round and, when it’s turned on, has a stick with a toy attached that goes round and round. The cats like to lie on the stick and try to keep it from moving.

 

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Food & Drink

Headless in the Liminal Zone

This is how I feel this summer.

No, not like the model haha. The headless dolls.

I’m not the only person who thinks dolls are representations of humans. Why else do many people believe a child should have a doll that looks like her? Why do they give anatomically correct dolls to children who might have been sexually abused? This belief underpins some of the poems in Doll God.

I can’t seem to feel my head this summer. There are lots of body lumps curves and big limbs when I glance down. The heat makes me swell, and this makes my already swollen legs and feet take over my self-image until all I am is a big Goodyear blimp with two more blimps hanging down to the floor. I have a condition called Primary Lymphedema, and it causes swelling of the “extremities.” It can be really extreme. If you’ve ever seen someone with grotesquely swollen and misshapen legs, that is probably what she (sometimes he) has. (Just so you know, no, I don’t have the grotesque version–just the super annoying version). If you have ever heard of Elephantiasis, this is really the same illness–only that one is caused by the bite of a mosquito.I’ll throw in a photo from Wikipedia, so you can get the idea.

Elephantiasis

Elephantiasis

I have to wear compression stockings except when I am lying down, even when it’s 118 degrees out. Sometimes I feel like that Goldfinger girl who died when the gold paint covered her entire body. The stockings are almost claustrophobic. My SIL used to say my legs look like ragdoll legs.

A machine pumps my legs occasionally. There is a leg-sized sleeve that fits over my leg and it alternatively fills with air and deflates, pushing against the leg to move the excess fluid out of there and toward my bladder. It makes my legs feel better, but it isn’t that powerful at pushing the fluid around. A massage called manual lymph drainage can be useful, but only if it’s done by a superhero. These superheroes are very rare. I had one for years, but that was in California. I don’t have one in Arizona.

That was a tangent, although I think you needed to know that to understand why my body becomes so central in the summer (at least in my mind haha, which is a bit of a paradox). So my legs look a bit more like the chubby doll legs above than like the elephantiasis sufferer, but much lumpier.

I might have lost my male readers by now because I have discovered that men generally can’t bear to look at the swelling. They seem to find it upsetting. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m generalizing too much. I’m just reporting on my experiences over the last few decades.

By now you might wonder why there are two dolls. I can’t answer that question because I found them this way at the hair salon. But since everything has a reason and a pattern, I have to assume that I am not the only one of me out there. Somebody else has the same problem.

On another note, I’m not just headless because the body has taken over my mind. It’s also because it’s hot and summer is such a LIMINAL period. Yes, it is. It always feels liminal to me–a passage between one year and another. Maybe it’s because I was very focused on school and summer vacation as a kid and then I was a teacher and the universe always seemed to operate on the school year.

All of the above is just to say that between the inflating body and the liminal season I #amnotwriting. Gosh, I have my memoir manuscript back from a reader and have some ideas on how to proceed. And I have the play we are supposed to be working on. I had another chapbook piece–this one flash nonfiction–taken by a lovely literary magazine called In Parentheses. It was all I could do to look it over for revision possibilities. At this point, most of the short prose pieces have been taken. So I really need to . . . WRITE SOMETHING.

Or not. I might not push myself until September. It will still be hot then, but the liminal period will be over.

In the meantime, we are going to sign the papers for Sloopy–and yes, that will be her new name!

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Writing tip: when cooking Chinese food always use sesame oil. You can never have a bad meal if you follow that advice. On a full stomach, you will be happier and think you are a writer even if you are not writing.

 

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Filed under Arizona, Doll God, Dolls, Flash Nonfiction, Food & Drink, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

Sorting and Collecting for Free

I’ve been adding social media to my life for a few years. Some types or platforms I find more useful or more appealing than others. While I have not gotten excited over Instagram, I do love Pinterest. I rarely think about the social aspect of Pinterest. I’m simply infatuated with the intriguing photos that lead to stories, more images, or recipes.

As a collector, I find it addictive to add to boards that categorize some of my favorite subjects, and I’m grateful to other Pinterest collectors for providing pins and for the ease of adding my own contributions.

Something about Pinterest reminds me of  sorting M&Ms by color before eating them. And collecting shells on the beach and sorting them by shape or color. Simple and therapeutic. Sort of puts me at the emotional age of a toddler.

M and Ms

Some of my boards are writing and reading related, as you might expect. Check out Writing, Scribbling, and Jotting for an idea of my boards. If you have a particular blog post (written by you or someone else) that you would like me to pin onto the board, type the link into the comments here, and I’ll check it out!

I have boards for that ever-present child in me (I linked to Dollhouses in case you want to see a sample):

  • Dolls, dolls, dolls
  • Dollhouses
  • Tiny beauties (miniatures)
  • Vintage toys
  • Kestner dolls
  • Children and dolls
  • Puppetry pins
  • Paper dolls
  • Doll art
  • Antique, Vintage and Old-fashioned Nurseries
  • Dionne quintuplets

I’ve got fairy tale boards called Red in the Woods and A World of Snow. The former is one of my best boards, mainly because so many artists have a version of Little Red Riding Hood! I don’t usually pin the highly sexualized ones, but there are a ton of those, too.

For my love of textiles I have Hankies and History, Lace and other fun textiles, and Buttons buttons. Really all these textiles and trimming are related to history.

For history I cultivate these boards:

The apron board is new and was inspired by blogger Sheryl Lazarus here and here.

I’ve got animal boards like Beasties (just because I love that Scottish word), Black Cats Rule, and Children and Animals.

Speaking of black cats, Kana is doing well! Here she is enjoying a little box. No box too small for this girl!

 

Art-themed boards include:

  • Art of the Scrapyard
  • Revision Art
  • Translucent beauties
  • Scrapbook and paper crafts (woefully in need of work–just like my own scrapbooking!)

Most of my recipe boards are gluten-free. I’ve even got a couple of secret boards. Subjects? Hah, that’s why they are secret.

Some people (read: hubby) might think I’m wasting my time on Pinterest, but it sure seems fun to me. And I only “play” over there for a couple of minutes almost every day.

What about you? Are you on Pinterest? Why or why not?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, Dolls, Fairy Tales, Family history, Food & Drink, History, Lifestyle, Photographs, Reading, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture

More Travels with Mom

Hubby and I took Mom north of Phoenix.

We headed up to Cottonwood past hills “stubbled” with saguaro cacti.

We spent the night at the Pines Motel. I was entranced by the note pad next to the phone: it was computer paper cut up and stapled together. They pride themselves on being green. We had a great dinner at Nic’s.  Hubby and I have been there before, and they actually manage not to cross-contaminate his food with gluten. It helps that he orders simply–the crab legs, baked potato, and salad  with his own salad dressing (we carry packets of gluten free salad dressing with us). In the evening we played Bananagrams, a game that is fast becoming a family favorite.

Next day we drove up the mountain to Jerome, an old mining town. Inside a gift shop we discovered a museum of Jerome’s history. We got in for the senior bargain rate of $1 each. When we traveled in Canada and the NW US last summer, we were frequently shut out of senior discounts because they seemed to raise the bar for the senior price when we got to each destination ;). This time hubby preempted that trouble. He told the lady he was buying tickets for 3 old people so she lectured him while she took his $3, not realizing it was all part of his plan.

Inside I learned a lot about the history of mining. If you were reading my poems during the Tupelo Press 30/30 you might have read a poem I wrote about mining in Globe, Arizona. I wrote it in honor of a lady whose father was one of the early Jerome miners. Like her father, many of those early miners were Mexican.

The most fascinating part of the museum was learning about medical care provided to the miners. I began to picture what it would have been like to be stuck underground in one of those early mines and to get hurt or sick.  Take a look at the pre-printed chart below. There weren’t women miners, so the gynecological section must have been for family members or the very many prostitutes living and working in Jerome.

This is where copper comes from:

IMG_7937

Later we stopped at the winery for the tasting bar. (You knew that was coming, right?) We didn’t want to taste too much because of the high altitude and Mom’s heart condition, so hubby told the wine-pourer (I’m sure there is an official title; I just don’t know what it is) he wanted to buy a bottle and she let us (OK, that means mainly me) taste a few for free. I settled on the, of course, chardonnay. I will say, though, that Jerome wine is not my cuppa. I asked the wine-pourer where the vineyards are. I couldn’t imagine them so far up the mountain, but what do I know about vineyards (although obviously at least one branch of my ancestors knew a lot). She looked a little sheepish when she answered that they are outside Tucson. Hahaha. That’s a long way from Jerome! Now I feel bad that I gave a certain friend a bottle of Jerome wine.

The building that overlooks all of Jerome and is arguably the main tourist draw is the Jerome Grand Hotel. I had read that it was the original hotel in Jerome, operating when the miners needed care. You can get the best view of the building from their own website.

It wasn’t until I got there that I saw ASYLUM signs there. Note the old fashioned elevator door. I want you to know that Ms. Claustrophobia here (that’s moi) went up on the first ride all by her lonesome. I was so proud of myself. In the following view, I am riding with Mom who is examining the panel or the Otis Elevator inspection certificate.

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Before we left town, hubby bought Mom a gorgeous scarf. When it’s open it displays so many colors and looks beautiful with her coloring. Blue, green, orange, pink, purple, gold.

After Jerome we all agreed to drive up to beautiful Sedona for dunch (or is it linner?). Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a single restaurant we could trust for gluten-free dining that was open so early (about 4PM).  Luckily, we had cheese, turkey slices, crackers, and apples so Mom could eat something. We had to drive all the way back to the Phoenix area and stopped at the first P.F. Chang’s we could find.

The scarf purchase inadvertently led us to our next big adventure. That was the day I gave Mom training how to wear scarves! We had fun, and I even figured out a new way of tying for myself.

Now ask me if I’m writing? hahahahahahahaha

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Food & Drink, History, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Memoir, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Between the Lines with Doll God

I’m grateful to Zinta Aistars and WMUK radio. They produce a show called Between the Lines that showcases writers. Zinta interviewed me about Doll God. You can read about it and/or listen to it here. She posted a short version, as well as a full-length version, so take your pick.

In addition to the book, I talked about the origins of my writing 😉 and about my interest in family history.

I seriously hope I didn’t make too big a fool of myself. Yikes.

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More “on the road” with Mom: hubby and I took her to a fundraiser for the medical fund at the pet shelter. We had cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres at Blue Martini in Phoenix. We didn’t win the raffles, alas. But I know our ticket money went to provide treatment to animals that have no one else to care for them.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Books, Doll God, Family history, Food & Drink, Interview, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing, Writing Talk

Places to Go and People to See

My mother is visiting for two months. So that she doesn’t have to sit around while I work all the time, I decided to take her to southern California and visit her grandson and his fiancée. And to stop off at a few wineries . . . .

Did I ever mention that I discovered my father’s grandmother’s family owned vineyards in Germany? It was in a village called Budesheim, right outside of Bingen. I explained to Mom that proves that I come from a long line of winos.

We not only checked out Chardonnays, but other wines as well.

We were picky about which wineries and even walked out of one before we bought our tickets. Calloway above was a favorite.

Mom was entranced with the snow on the mountaintops so early in the season.

I was entranced with the egrets sneaking around every vineyard.

On an unrelated note, if you’ve read Doll God and haven’t yet written a review for Amazon, I am shamelessly begging for another review to boost the book up to 30 reviews. It’s been at 29 for a loooooooong time. xo

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, California, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Sightseeing & Travel

Raise a Glass

Just what you didn’t expect from me (maybe): a wine review. While it’s not in time for Christmas and Hanukkah, surely you can’t drink champagne all New Year’s Eve! Mix it up with some Chardonnay, my favorite wine.

Hubby clipped coupons for Total Wine & More, a big box store around here, and we loaded up a cart with a variety of Chardonnays for me and a bottle each of vodka and port for him. Notice that Chardonnay is capitalized, but port is not. I have no idea what is correct, but that is how I view the world. And that is how you will find this review. Chardonnay from the viewpoint of Luanne who knows very little about wine.

Oops, I probably should have pretended to know a lot, so you would think I know what I am talking about. But when you read the language I use to describe the wines you will figure it out anyway.

When I go to a restaurant I never know what to order. That is only partly my own ignorance. It is also because most restaurants seem to carry some crappy wine they can mark up. Some will mix it up with a brand that “everyone” knows, such as Kendall Jackson. So when I go to a restaurant, I tend to order Kendall Jackson, not because I think it is a great Chardonnay, but because I know what I am getting and find it palatable. Note that I’m not talking about fine restaurants here, but the kind I frequent.

Standing in the aisles of Chardonnay at Total Wine it struck me that I really miss the wine store in Kalamazoo called Bacchus. They always had a big choice and it wasn’t a big box, equity company-owned store. It also struck me that there are a lot of Chardonnays I never hear about because they don’t sell them at most restaurants. I wondered if I could find something I like better than Kendall Jackson or La Crema, a brand I began to drink after a friend gave me a bottle for a gift.

If you wonder about the origins of Chardonnay, here is a brief history from Wine Access:

The best Chardonnays in the world continue to arrive from the region where the grape first emerged: the chalk, clay, and limestone vineyards of Burgundy and Chablis. While the origins of the grape were disputed for many years, with some speculating that the grape came all the way from the Middle East, DNA researchers at the University of California Davis proved in 1999 that Chardonnay actually developed, most likely, in eastern France, as a cross between a member of the “Pinot” family and an ancient, and nearly extinct variety called Gouais Blanc.

My results will follow a typical wine rating.

Luanne’s 100-Point Scale based on that used by Wine Access and other sites:

  • 95-100 — Classic; a great wine
  • 90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
  • 80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
  • 70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
  • 60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
  • 50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

But don’t expect talk of pears and apples and oak and all that rot.  I only use the word oak when I ask a server which is the most “oaky” of the less expensive chards. These are my impressions of the ones I chose.

SONOMA LOEB

This wine seemed flat, without much taste. But sour, definitely puckery. Kind of like sucking on over-sized California lemons. (You’ve probably heard that the larger the California-grown produce, the less flavor, and that’s a fact). I’d give this one a 70 to be kind.

FOUNTAIN GROVE

A screwtop worried me at first, but I shouldn’t have been. I will buy this again. The taste was very focused. Maybe what I mean is a rich flavor like when you let soup or sauce cook down. No after taste. No harshness. This one gets a 94 from me. Maybe it would be higher if I could get over the screw top. (That said, I did drink a nice box wine on vacation).

OAK RIDGE

I really disliked this one. It’s so bitter and tasted like old carpet. You know what I mean. When you find some older carpet remnant underneath old carpet you pull up. ICK. On the second night of this wine I noticed a sweet smell that quickly turned chemically. The wine seemed rotten to me. Let’s give this one a 50. Oh no, I just realized there is another bottle of this on my wine rack. I must have bought two because it was less expensive. Ugh.

RED PONY RANCH

Drank just enough of this one that I forgot to record my thoughts. I’ll give it a 90 because that must be a good sign!

OAK GROVE

This one tastes like a basic chard you might order from a mid-range restaurant. It’s a 75. Go for it if the price is right.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

I asked my daughter to also review this one. I was so infatuated with a name that sounded literary (like Augusten Burroughs’ memoir) that I wanted to make sure that I could give you a more objective viewpoint. Her view is that the wine the first night was light and oaky (yup, she said oaky), with an aftertaste of olives and a salty bite to it. OK, maybe she should be the one reviewing wine, not me.

What I thought about the wine was that the first sip has a pucker factor and a weak flavor, but then the taste develops and becomes richer. And it does have an olive taste to it. The second night gave me no pucker at all. There is a nutty undertaste to it, if that makes sense. I ended up thinking this was a 90-94, but I will need to try another bottle to make sure ;).

FIRE AND OAK

I bought this one at Whole Foods. What an interesting wine. This chard has a woody smell, almost like a firepit. The taste is “narrow,” meaning that there isn’t a wide range within the taste. There is no after taste and no pucker, although there is a slight bitterness. I really like this and give it a 95. Maybe Whole Foods is a better place to buy wine than Total Wine & More.

ST. FRANCIS

This one reminds me of Kendall-Jackson and La Crema, so if you like those, you will probably like this one. I particularly love this name because I have always been partial to St. Francis, with his love of animals and the poor. And also because Francis was my father’s middle name and a “family” name.

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For the record, the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted was made by a Temecula (my home town area for almost 20 years) winery called Leoness. Temecula is the southern California wine region. Leoness has been sold out of Chardonnay for some time and when the new year is available will be sold directly to fine restaurants instead of at their winery :(.

Most of these Chardonnays I “sampled” don’t even show up on lists of the best Chardonnays. Oh well, I sure had fun sampling. And after this whirlwind of a year it felt very refreshing.

I want to dedicate this post

to a young woman who lost her life tragically and far far too soon. Jordan Schuman was a 22-year-old TV reporter in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina and grew up on Long Island, New York. She was in a fatal car accident two days before Christmas. She was vibrant and talented and her friends are remembering her with red lipstick and high heels. Her mother, a friend of mine, has asked us to raise a glass in Jordan’s memory and hopes to “blow up the internet” with people toasting to Jordan. Her favorite wine was Pinot Grigio. Please join me in a glass of Pinot Grigio for Jordan. #cheerstojordan

cheerstojordan

 

 

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