The Genesis of Wine

Hogue Genesis Cab 2008

A guest post by Philip

This is not a discussion about the origins of wine, but a story about a recent experience involving wine. Over time you may find this to be thematic of my future postings, as it seems to be one of those hobbies that constantly offers new opportunities. My latest trip is an example of part of my ongoing wine hunt.
Even though Grace could not travel with me on this business trip, as we’d originally planned, I had a surprisingly enjoyable evening on my first night out.

I was in San Antonio Texas and as usual my choice of hotel was based on what was affordable, yet within certain acceptable limits. I travel too often to put up with extremely low-end lodging but also too often to spend a ton of money every night. On this particular trip, the Doubletree Hotel in Downtown San Antonio won my business at an amazingly low $80/night.

Since I had meetings in different cities in south Texas, I flew into Austin then drove to San Antonio for an early morning meeting the next day. I decided that since I’d be answering emails and working from my room, I’d just find my dinner at the hotel restaurant.

The restaurant was your typically chain hotel café/bistro. Since it was relatively near the Riverwalk, I was not surprised to find that I was one of only 3 patrons in the hour I was there that evening. I picked a Southwest Chicken Salad, the Chicken Tortilla soup and the house Cabernet.

I hadn’t had this particular Cab before, but by the glass options are not always great, so I had limited expectations. As the evening progressed, I found that the quality of the food and service at this hotel restaurant was unusually nice. Adding to the experience was the unexpected quality of the house wine. They were pouring a Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. I enjoyed it enough that I put the wine on my watch list, to remind me to find it again someday, and added it to my recommendation list for my friends. Google research after dinner showed it typically sells for about $16.99/750ml. It was good enough that I told Grace about it when we talked later that evening.

A couple of days later, while prepping for a networking event that I help host, I was in San Marcos, a town known for its Outlet Malls/Stores. I saw a large sign for Gabriel’s Wine and Spirits Outlet. As a committed wine hobbyist, I felt compelled take the exit and check this out. Besides, I was on a quest for party supplies.

The first wine I saw when entering the store, on the discount rack, was Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 for $9.99. Needless to say I immediately purchased a bottle and 4 days later, brought it home where Grace and I can share this wine. I wouldn’t want her to feel neglected since she had planned to join me, but at the last minute she could not make the trip. We’ll see if she likes the wine as much as I did!

Phil’s Review of Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: This Cabernet has a nice dark color in the glass, with a bouquet of plum and black cherry. It has a medium body that is well-balanced and fruit forward. On the palate, I tasted blackberry and currant flavors at the core, with pepper, licorice and herbal notes as the flavors linger with mild tannins on the finish. This a good, well-priced cabernet that would go well with burgers and steaks, but for red wine lovers, I would also suggest that the pepper and herbal characteristics paired well with a spicy southwest salad and tortilla soup.

Wedding Bells are Breaking up That Old Gang of Mine!

dreamstimefree_247942Which somehow surprises me.

I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I was less surprised when this happened after college, where everyone moved or married or married and moved and all summer there seemed to be wedding after wedding. But I’ve gone to two going away parties in the last 3 weeks for friends of mine who had been single for years and who are now packing all or part of their stuff and heading off into the sunset with a new mate.

One had been living with her fiancé for a while, and they just finally decided to make the move—so they sold their house and moved to Florida. Another had been thinking about retiring for a while, but just in the last month retired from her job, married a man she had become re-acquainted with over the last year and is keeping her place here but living with her new husband part-time in California. They are all happy and excited and looking forward to the future.

To which I say “YAY!”

I guess retirement is sort of like graduation—people are free from a commitment or constraint and they scatter to the wind, ready to try something and someplace new!

In a way, it is fun because when I’m on the road, I’ll have more people to call to meet for dinner. But it is also a bittersweet end of an era when I saw these women frequently. Once again, technology is our friend in this situation, because the friend who is now in Florida happily gave the comparative weather report today between her balmy beach and my city, snowed in today by Winter Storm Q.

Tomorrow I may send a comparison of python sightings–what do you think?

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. . .

Free shutterstock_97614038 Heart shaped balloon

. . . or, with that oversized wine glass of Syrah.

I will say that, while we don’t officially celebrate Valentine’s Day, we managed to have quite a nice time last night.  We got home around 7 and decided to heat up some soup instead of cooking dinner.  To make it more celebratory, we also opened a bottle of one of our favorite California Syrahs, 2009 6th Sense, by Michael David Winery.

And it was good.

I’ve been stressed lately—and an evening of Syrah, reminiscing and Castle on TV, all worked as a very nice chill pill.  At one point, Phil asked me if I remembered our first kiss, then did a little extemporaneous reenactment.

Also good.

So, I guess we do sort of celebrate Valentine’s Day. I made a Jib Jab Valentine e-card (for some reason, I love sticking our faces on the animated characters. It may be that I am just easily entertained) and we had wine and got mushy.  We just didn’t go out, buy flowers or candy or cards or have a fancy dinner.

So I hope all of you who celebrate Valentine’s Day had at least as much fun as I did.

And for those of you who don’t celebrate—an anecdote.

Once upon a time I was card shopping over lunch on Valentine’s day.  A couple of guys about 30 years old, were also last minute card shopping over lunch. The guy looking for the card was not happy about the whole thing. He was griping and complaining and basically cussing the whole Valentine tradition.  Finally, he found a big, red, shiny card, showed it to his friend and said “This ought to shut her up!”

So, as we pause to bask in the remembered glow of that special moment, we can all give thanks that we are not in that relationship!

To Celia

Ben Jonson (~1616)

Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I’ll not look for wine.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much hon’ring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;

But thou thereon did’st only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear
Not of itself, but thee.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

I had a small dinner party for Mardi Gras over the weekend.  We had just returned from 9 days on the road for work, and while I have wanted to have a big Mardi Gras Party for the last couple of years, this was not going to be the year.

So, I did a bit of research online and came up with an easy menu.

Blackened Chicken Breasts

Broccoli (sounds Cajun, doesn’t it?)

Hoppin’ John ( a simplified version  I sort of made up as I went along, with  no ham hocks or bacon, just green pepper, onion and celery sautéed, then cooked with a can of black eyed peas and some Cajun seasoning, then mixed this into rice, which I’d prepared using low sodium, fat free chicken broth instead of water.)

King Cake

Making the King Cake was my treat for myself, as I’ve heard about it for years, but beyond the name had no idea what it was.

What I discovered is that it is not so much a cake as a cinnamon ring or sweet bread.  I googled  “easy King Cake” and ended up at the Rhodes Bread  website and went with their recipe for a lemon cream cheese filling.  I had cream cheese and powdered sugar, and I was happy to think that I could buy the frozen dough and make this –No muss no fuss.   I just followed the recipe, with my only change that I didn’t use colored sugar sprinkles, instead made 3 colors of glaze.  So click here to see the King Cake you can order from New Orleans for 35 dollars  and below is the picture of mine that cost me $2.25.

King Cake Blog

It has some imperfections, but other than the Rhodes Bread page, it seems imperfections are allowed if not embraced when it comes to decorating King Cakes.

Most importantly, it tasted good and was very easy. I can see making this again with lemon or other fillings for a breakfast or brunch for houseguests, sans the purple frosting.

I had considered making special cocktails–Hurricanes or Sazeracs, but the ease of just opening a bottle of wine won out.  We did have Community Coffee with Chicory to try to carry a “New Orleans “theme.” 

Maybe next year I’ll be able to pull off a big Mardi Gras Bash.  But this was an easy, fun, low key, low cost and low pressure substitute.

And now I have a year to find Hurricane glasses on the cheap!


Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the 21rst Century


I am usually pretty tech savvy, but I had to be coerced to join Facebook.

I told people about 5 years ago that “I don’t have kids, I don’t have grandkids and I’m not trying to hook up—why do I want to be on Facebook?”

But, I was on a committee using it to communicate with members, so I joined and ended up with friends from that organization. And I never checked it. It took me a while to even “get” how it worked. Every time I logged in, I had so many posts from one friend with her picture showing up, I thought I was logging on to her page! Like I said, it took me a while to “get” it.

Later, a cousin was blogging about his cancer treatments via Facebook (he’s in remission and things look good btw) so I ended up friends with some family members. Then I accidently (not kidding here) accepted a friend request from an old classmate. A few weeks later, I got more friend requests from old classmates—hence the term viral, I guess. I will admit, I thought about dropping off of Facebook and ignoring their requests.  It took me a couple of weeks to think it over before I decided that I would “Friend”  these people—I don’t live near my old hometown and haven’t kept up with many people there, but—I also have nothing against most of them. So I did.

And that started the avalanche— I have “Friends” on Facebook I’ve not seen face to face in 20 years, people I see several times a month and relatives, both my age and younger.  I have them in distinct groups for my rare posts (not everyone gets everything—if I’m posting correctly) and I begrudgingly check Facebook every couple of days—ok, probably more like every day now.

And while I’m not in love with it, I am starting to see some value to it.

For one thing, I’m becoming better acquainted with some of the younger members of my family, which has been nice. And I’m also able to keep track of my friends and acquaintances locally, who I don’t see as often since work has become ever busier.

I went to a going away party tonight for a friend. There were a lot of people there, many I have not seen in a long time, between their schedules and mine.  However, I knew what most of them were up to, thanks to Facebook. For, buried amidst the forwarded cat pictures, the marketing dross and the “hit like if you love your son, your granddaughter or your gun” posts and the countless pictures of cute babies, there is enough real information that I was remarkably up to date with is happening in my friends’ lives.

I know whose mother is moving in with her, whose brother is very sick, and who is looking for a new job. In fact, I learned that my friend was moving out of state via Facebook when she announced her house was up for sale and that she was closing on a condo!

So, while I read Facebook more than I post (Cue my mom saying  “Everyone says that.” ) I acknowledge people’s situations and posts and make this bit of social media a tool that really does help me keep me in the loop. Thus I will begrudgingly admit I’m glad I joined Facebook.

But I need to get better at the ins and outs of using it, because earlier this week, I once again accidently accepted a friend request when I was trying to hit “not now.”

I Need a Snow Day

2011 Holiday Queens Park Table

I need a real, retro snow day.

Once upon a time, if it snowed—really snowed—I ended up with a day off.  If the busses couldn’t run, if the streets were not clearable, once the local weather man declared it a snow day, or I got a call from the office phone tree—I could crawl back into bed and pull the comforter up to my chin until 10!  When I finally got up, I could putter around the house in thick socks, flirt with Philip, drink cocoa by the fireplace, watch daytime tv or old movies or read or putter without guilt, since I had a free day off that was completely unplanned.

Today, if it snows 11 inches and the streets by my house are not cleared until late in the day if at all, schools and businesses and offices in a 60 mile radius are closed and my driveway looks like Siberia on a bad day–I still am able and expected to work.

It is one of the few times when technology turns on me.

When once I would not have been able to get my voice mail, now it is delivered to my email inbox as an attachment, which goes directly to my smartphone.  When once I would not have been able to access work files, the Cloud and our VPN let me work on any file, anywhere, any time. All of the things that make it possible for me to be productive on the road come back to bite me when the weather is awful and the fireplace alluring.

I miss the random Tuesday of the homebound luxury of being out of the office with no way to get to work.

Now, to get a snow day, I have to schedule it!

Happy Ground Hog Day

Looking out from the hole

Well, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog saw no shadow today.  So, per the mythology, we’ll be getting early spring.  Or not.  When I was a kid, we all based the anticipated weather on if a local groundhog would have seen its shadow, not on the predictions of some critter from “back east.”

That said, as an adult, I encourage carnivores to celebrate the day with a bit of sausage—sausage gravy with biscuits, sausage pizza, a polish brat cooked up with sauerkraut, apples and potatoes.  Any ground hog that you like will work on Ground Hog Day.