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Category Archives: Wine

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

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Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

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Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

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So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

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Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

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The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

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Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.

Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

One. Perfect. Weekend.

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I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it’s the fact that weekends like this one are the reason we don’t move south. Those absolutely breathtaking weekends, with foliage, crisp temperatures, sunshine and beautiful places to visit.

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My weekend began out at Sharp’s Farm, for a Conservancy sponsored event. Denise Sharp, who is absolutely amazing and passionate about her farm, and farming in general, led 43 people on a tour of the farm. It was an event we asked her to create and lead.

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It’s the third time that I know of, where the Conservancy sponsored an off site event. This time, the premier event showcasing Howard County farms. It also was created to use the off site due to the construction at Mt. Pleasant.

I had the pleasure of partnering with Denise, setting things up and leading the scavenger hunt. Denise, she got the fun job. Taking them on a hayride through the farm, including a creek crossing.

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Off they go, to tour the property.

My favorite part of Saturday morning, watching the children feed the animals.

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They fed the goats, the chickens, the cows and the bunnies. And they loved it.

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So did the farm animals. All that attention and extra food.

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After all, when was the last time you got to pet a cow.

This weekend was the last one at the farm. Just like Larriland, who closed today. And, I believe, Clark’s. It’s the end of the season, except for the local wineries. That’s the other thing we did on this perfect weekend. Headed out to Black Ankle to pick up wine.

Along with hundreds of others, we sat outside and enjoyed the view and the wine. Didn’t even take the camera. It was just a lazy afternoon surrounded by fall foliage.

Every year this early November lovely weather, accompanied by the changing leaves, makes us love the state of Maryland even more.

Bitter Sweet

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Bitter like the greens. Sweet as the beets.

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It may be a slow improvement, but still. The change to my lifestyle and my eating habits since retiring has been paying off. My annual physical was yesterday. Saw much improvement by moving away from commercially prepared highly processed foods and by cooking from scratch as much as possible.

I considered naming this post “A1C is the new LDL” since decades of eating low fat, or no fat, and not cooking with basic ingredients has impacted our health. Face it, we had significantly more sugar in our diets while we worked and commuted. Too many frozen dinners, carry out meals and high carb restaurant choices like pasta, or pizza.

Now, my generation fights the battle against Type 2 Diabetes. All those low fat meals contained hidden sugars.

I am glad I made the switch. Even though it is time consuming to cook this way. I also know that my CSA is the real reason I don’t give up.

That salad up there. I made the dressing. The greens and beets and berries are from my CSA. So is the cheese.

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The creamy dressing. Yogurt without added sugar. A very tiny bit of preserves. White balsamic and good olive oil. A pinch of salt and pepper.

It’s not the only thing we have added to our vegetable share. We get cheese, fruit, meat, yogurt, and bread. I have added a grain and flour share for fall.

This is the bread we now eat.

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A different one each week. No dairy. No sugar. The miche is awesome with soups and stews. Comes with our CSA delivery. Made in a bakery in Brooklyn NY. This one and the polenta are my favorites.

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Today I threw a whole bunch of things in the crockpot. Minimizing sodium, sugar and preservatives. Yeah, I didn’t skip the fat. Mostly the healthy fats, like olive oil. A layer of greens. A layer of beans. Some lovely beef short ribs from Boarman’s.

I admit it. If I didn’t have a year round CSA delivery, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to the “real food” diet. I would have been lazier and bought some ready made items. Having those vegetables hanging out in the fridge and on the counter reminds me daily that I need to continue this path. I don’t want my golden years to be consumed by health issues. I don’t want to take all sorts of prescriptions to combat something that I can prevent with a little effort.

Here’s to my feeling good about the progress. Here’s to getting better, while not feeling old. Here’s to that heart healthy red wine. Can’t forget that.

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Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

ISO @mdsbest Wineries

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What makes an exceptional winery? Do we have any here in Maryland? I hear people say there aren’t any good wines from Maryland. Obviously, they aren’t looking in the right places.

These days we have many very good options to find viniferous grapes being grown, blended and bottled, to make very, very good wines. I just spent some time looking at this year’s Comptroller’s Cup wines, from the latest competition (not sure what the difference is between Comptroller’s Cup, Winemaker’s Choice, and Governor’s Cup, but we seem to have many different competitions).

It prompted my husband wanting to take a trip to Boordy. Maryland’s oldest winery.

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I actually wanted to go to Old Westminster, but they weren’t open during the day. They won the latest competition. For their Malbec.

We will get there sometime soon, as we haven’t been visiting for the past year or so.

As for Boordy, it was OK. Not great. They used to have a very good Chardonnay, but the latest vintage didn’t impress. We drove there to try the Albarino and the Viognier. Personally, Black Ankle makes a better Albarino and Big Cork, a much better Viognier.

It’s summer. White and pink wine season for us. Since I am a “locapour”, championing local wines, I try to stock my beverage refrigerator with light wines that do well in the heat of the summer.

In our experience so far, Black Ankle, Big Cork and Old Westminster are our closest wineries producing outstanding wine. And, right up there. Elk Run.

If you are into local foods, expand a bit and try local wines. You may be pleasantly surprised these days.

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