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Words of Wisdom

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Sometimes it’s the simplest advice that means the most. Like how gardening can be the trial run for someone who wants to open a winery.

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We were sitting on the deck at our favorite winery, Linden, looking at the incredibly scenic view while enjoying a glass, some cheese and a baguette. When we first arrived, we watched the owner/winemaker Jim Law head off on his zero turn to cut some of the paths through the vineyards. He has always maintained that he is a farmer first and foremost. Growing grapes.

Of course, from those grapes comes great wine. He is a master. One we have known for 25 years now. He always stops by to talk if we are visiting. We like to talk about his old wines. Like the 2005 Cabernet Franc we opened for dinner last week.

He and I like to talk about growing stuff. Me, my garden. Him, his grapes.

He made a comment Saturday about what he tells those who think it would be great to start a vineyard. He asks if they garden. For those of us who do, we understand. Gardening is hard. We have pests. The weather drives us nuts. The weeds. The bugs. The heat and humidity. Lack of rain. Too much rain.

If you have gardened, you get it.

Growing things isn’t always easy. Making great wine, like Jim does, takes that extra effort of understanding your climate and living with it.

His vineyards look awesome right now.

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He gave me great advice once for my gardening. I grow heirloom tomatoes. He told me. If it rains too much, don’t weed. Let the weeds soak up all that extra moisture that would otherwise water down your tomatoes.

If there’s a drought, definitely weed like mad. The secret to a great heirloom tomato is very similar to the secret to great wine. Concentrated flavors, not watered down, make the taste.

Here’s to making the best we can. And to great friends. And great wine.

Friday Night in Old EC

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Main Street Ellicott City. Not a destination as often as we lived in Columbia. But we really need to remedy that.

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Friday we headed there to drop off a rug to be cleaned. And decided to stay for dinner. Our first visit to Pure Wine.

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It will not be our last. What a fun place to have dinner. Particularly if you can snag an outdoor table overlooking the main street below.

And whatever is above the old Earle theater.

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We also could see the new site for a second Mutiny Pirate Bar.

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This could be interesting in the future. Wine Bar and Pirate Bar. Right across the street from one another.

Everyone who knows us is aware that we love the family owned businesses. Not the chains. We are happy to report that we loved Pure Wine.

We started with rockfish tacos. One for each of us.

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Paired with a Falanghina del Taburno.

Followed by this.

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Truffle fries. OK, we could eat these all night. Perfect with the wine.

Finally, we decided to have some pinot noir with a charcuterie board. I love the fact that these small plates don’t stuff you and you can pick and those and match food to wine. They offer 2.5 ounce, and 5 ounce glasses. Some half bottles. And, of course, full bottles. Great wine list but a little sparse on local wines. Their only flaw in my world.

As for that board.

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The current selection has six meats. Six cheeses. You can pick a board of three or five. We picked wild boar salami, smoked prosciutto, and smoked duck breast, plus two cheeses. A crotonese and a chandoka.

We are planning our next visit when we pick up our rug from its cleaning. You know we like a place when we plan a return visit.

I do love old town Ellicott City.

A Touch of Whimsy …

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… surrounded by attention to detail, and the hills of the Maryland mountains. Big Cork Winery opened their tasting room yesterday the 31st of January.

On Main Street in Rohrersville, located in Washington County MD. About halfway between Frederick MD and Harper’s Ferry WV.

We headed there yesterday morning to see the new facility. I have poured wine for Big Cork at the Wine in the Woods, and we have been loving their Chardonnay for the past few years.

The winery is gorgeous. Big, bright with tons of outdoor space (for when it isn’t 20 degrees out there). The landscaping will be done in the spring. In the meantime, the indoor spaces are bright, inviting and carry that touch of whimsy in their art work, chandeliers and décor. Like the wall of “roses”.

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This is in the area where you can sit and enjoy a nice food pairing for wines purchased by the glass or bottle.

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We sat there after doing a tasting at the bar, and shared some flatbread and bruschetta while sipping the newest Chardonnay.

The bar was hopping.

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We ran into many friends there. Bruce and Sylvia came up for the celebration. They worked with Dave Collins, the winemaker, when he made wine at Breaux Vineyards in VA.

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We had a chance to chat with Dave, as he seemed to be everywhere, greeting those who are happy to see the new winery up and running.

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Currently, Big Cork makes eleven wines. The whites, all grown on the property. The reds. Not ready yet, so the current releases were made from bought grapes.

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This year’s Cabernet Franc was my favorite red. The Chardonnay, our favorite white. Although I was impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc, which has potential.

We will be stopping here often on day trips. They are also conveniently located south of Middletown, just a hop, skip and jump from South Mountain Creamery. Where we find that awesome ice cream.

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That terrace will be a popular spot when the weather warms up.

Another Trip Around the Sun

Title credit to Jimmy Buffett.

One more year down. Another big birthday. Can you say “Eligible for social security”? I find it a bit hard to do so. Sixty two years old. Ten years in our “new” house. Almost five years retired.

These trips around the sun just keep getting more interesting.

And, I really do detest making resolutions. But, they seem to help me focus, even if just for a little while.

I did pretty well for what I wanted to do in 2014. I moved my garden. We took a few trips.

I haven’t done that baking thing yet. I have, though, continued to read new blogs for inspiration. I made it all the way through the Smitten Kitchen archives.

This year, I am reading David Lebovitz. I will either get an ice cream maker as a result, or I will book a week long trip to Paris. Amazing what kind of inspiration you can get by just reading something.

Now, I need to get that local business page done. No more procrastination. It will be up and running soon (famous last words).

As for that birthday. The dinner was spectacular. Again, home cooked. Locally sourced.

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With a wine that has local connections.

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Axios means “worthy”. Axios wine is a product of a Howard County resident, Gus Kalaris. Those of us who frequent Iron Bridge know Gus quite well. He has a release party there every year. Gus is following his dreams. To make amazing wines. I think of people like him, as I consider that we can always find new challenges. New passions. New endeavors.

No matter how many trips around the sun we take.

Here’s to another awesome year. What will 2015 bring?

The Dark Days

The time of year when the sun is in the opposite hemisphere, and our daylight hours get shorter and shorter. On December 21st, we here in Howard County only get 9 1/2 hours of daylight. Then, thankfully, the days get longer after that day.

A few years back, I did a food challenge. Called the Dark Days Challenge. The challenge, simply, was to make a meal once a week in the winter that used almost completely regional, seasonal items, and/or items you preserved from the summer.

I found out we had lots of sources here in Central Maryland. I didn’t have to eat food flown halfway across the country or halfway around the world. I learned about the Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and DuPont circle year round markets. I found farmers in the area where I could procure local meats.

I found a year round CSA. Bottom line. I changed how I ate. I changed how I cooked. I reduced my carbon footprint by using more and more local foods.

Last night, I made dinner. Afterwards, I realized how that dinner would have rocked the Dark Days Challenge. Almost all of it was local. And I didn’t even work hard to do it. I had just changed my food sources over the years.

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My lamb stew dinner. Using Mt. Airy Meats lamb. CSA potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots. Friends and Farms kale, garlic and rosemary. Trickling Springs butter. Secolari’s olive oil and balsamic. Wayne Nell’s bacon ends.

And the wine.

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A 1999 Linden Glen Manor from Virginia. Like inhaling cherries. Dark, delicious. Nowhere near its peak. A bargain back when we bought it. A treasure to be savored with the lamb.

My husband declared I now make a braised lamb stew that rivals those that Marc Dixon used to make at Iron Bridge. Falling off the bone lamb. Simply cooked in the oven at slow cooker setting, with the potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions in a chicken stock I made last month.

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Yes, I know I need to clean the oven. Ignore that. I did the stew in one pan. Seared it first, added the vegetables and stock and cooked it for four hours at the 250 degree setting in the oven.

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The kale. Started out with scallions from Laurel Amish Market. Olive oil. Bacon ends. Added the kale and garlic. Sautéed until wilted.

So easy to eat fresh food around here.

The Linden Library Tastings

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2014 edition.

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This is the aftermath. This year we tasted cabernets and Hardscrabble blends.

What is a library tasting? Every year, Linden has two Sundays reserved to taste older wines. And, to hear the stories while asking questions of the owner/winemaker Jim Law. As a locavore/locapour I love Linden. For their dedication to serving local foods in their winery. For their passion that Virginia can be one amazing place to grow grapes and make wines similar to those found in Bordeaux.

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These were the wines poured. A 1989 and a 1991 cabernet. A reserve 1997, which was mostly cabernet franc. 2001, 2006 and 2009 Hardscrabble blends. All from the vines on the property. Plus, a 2013 barrel sample. Oh, and before we entered the tasting room, out in the main area, we sampled the current release of the 2010 Hardscrabble.

My favorites. The 1997 Reserve and the 2009 Hardscrabble. Library tastings let you see how the wine matures. If you should open those bottles in your cellar.

The 1989 was going downhill fast. This wine was older than the year of our first visit to Linden. Our oldest wine was 1990. Long gone from the cellar. So is our 1991 vintage. We drank the last one in 2006. Happy to say that this wine still has life in it.

We learn quite a bit at these tastings. New things for me. Green rock versus granite and what that means for white and red grapes. More about extraction, with anecdotes about the sharing of the winery with RdV’s French consultant. Vine placement, east-west or north-south. Which is better? Pruning timing. When is best to prune?

Jim spends 90 minutes for these tastings. Sharing stories. Answering questions. Reflecting on growing grapes in Virginia.

The library tastings sell out in one day. Only four tastings. 9 people maximum each tasting. Three dozen lucky case club members get to taste magnificent wines and increase our knowledge.

If you ever get the chance to do a vertical tasting, a library tasting or a reserve tasting at a local winery, you should do it.

When He’s 64!

So yesterday was my husband’s 64th birthday. As for that needing or feeding part of the Paul McCartney reference, I at least fed him well.

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Part of it was even local! We tend to stay home for birthday dinners, and break out the good wine, and make something fairly simple but matching the wines. Last night it was a simple lamb chop dinner. I should have gotten the lamb from Mt Airy, but the Whole Foods lamb looked good. It did end up having a little too much connective tissue and fat, but had a good flavor. Simply sautéed with a red wine reduction. Marinated earlier in some rosemary and my roasted garlic. We split a baked potato. And, I made some of those Baugher’s Brussels sprouts. Not that difficult to make, and just the right amount. The dinner rolls were also from Baugher’s bakery.

As for wine, we didn’t do local. We did old.

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A special Chateauneuf du Pape, from the year we went to Provence. 2003.

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Memories of those caves, and the time spent eating and drinking locally produced market fresh foods. It is what created our appreciation of good food and wine from local farms.

We did go out yesterday, on the spur of the moment for lunch at Ananda. In Maple Lawn. An Indian luncheon. A treat my husband loves. Which is Indian food. Thanks to HowChow and his followers for letting us know about this new addition to Howard County. It certainly is a lovely restaurant with very good food. We will be going back for dinner, that’s for sure.

I think my husband had a pretty nice birthday. I certainly fed him well.

Sunday Drives

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It’s the height of leaf peeping season here in Central Maryland. That cool couple of nights really made a difference in the depth of the colors. Sunday drives will be rewarded with stunning views like these.

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This was Larriland, but today I want to recommend heading farther afield. So to speak. Like to Sugarloaf Mountain, to visit the winery, maybe hike a few of the trails and check out the artisans in the Dickerson area.

Wineries have tremendous views in the fall, when the vines turn color to match the scenery.

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Some grape leaves on the vines turn red. Others yellow or orange.

If you want other close options that include time spent driving on back roads filled with color. Consider Black Ankle, just out Liberty Road. Or maybe Breaux just south of Harpers Ferry. Breaux now sits on a road with at least a half dozen other wineries. We haven’t tried any of them yet, except for Notaviva. We may have to plan a trip soon. Besides, Harpers Ferry alone is worth the drive.

If you want a new place to find pumpkins and apples, check out Baughers in Westminster.

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Besides the farm, just west of the city off of Rte. 140, the restaurant near McDaniels College has some of the best ice cream, and lots more at the farm stand.

This is also the last weekend for the Fall Festival at Gaver Farm, outside of Mt. Airy.

Any of these local farms have their final weekend events, too. Like Larriland for their straw maze for the little ones, Sharps, Mullinix, for those maze enthusiasts and apple/pumpkin pickers.

Who needs to drive all the way to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, when there are all sorts of events in Howard, Carroll and Frederick Counties.

Before autumn leaves us, it’s a great weekend to enjoy the local colors. All of them.

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Rocks Beneath Our Feet

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Literally.

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You know what they say about vines struggling, and producing great wines? This is the epitome of that quote. The land under RdV vineyards. Before they built the winery.

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The caves are under the left wing of the building. The rooms with the vats and barrels, are to the right. The building itself, a work of art and architecture.

Rutger de Vink, a former Marine (pictured above on the left) wanted to show that Virginia can make world class wines. The kind that rivals Bordeaux. He now has close to 900 people who buy his wines on a subscription basis yearly. Because they are that good.

Release party for the 2011’s was yesterday. A beautiful day. We had great wine. And, goodies from some local food trucks.

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Crab and lobster salads. Awesome BBQ. Burritos made from scratch. All served up with Friends and Families.

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The quote does sum up how we feel about this small ambitious winery in the Shenandoah foothills. Thanks to Rutger and his team for giving us a little taste of Napa and Sonoma in our backyard.

Wines to save for anniversaries. And birthdays. Wines to put Virginia on the international map. This locavore/locapour loves them.

Soup People

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Some are. Some aren’t. We obviously are. Considering the number of times I have blogged about soup.

Particularly, a good quick soup.

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Like bean soup, without all the preparations I used for the one above.

This one was simple. Because. It is cold and rainy. I didn’t feel like roasting a chicken today as I was out of the house too much.

But, I have my trusty pantry.

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You know. You can pull a couple of cans of beans. Today I used the cannellini beans. Two cans. I had chicken breasts cooked.

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I always have chicken in the freezer, from my two sources. Every week I find a day to bake or poach chicken breasts. To have them ready for lunches or dinners. They get eaten quickly.

Then, a little flavor. Today it came from a box of Pacific condensed cream of mushroom soup. And, a couple of cubes of my latest pesto. Right out of the freezer.

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Dump it all in a crockpot. With a little bit of water. Dinner in a few hours, with no stirring or pot watching. I did tonight’s batch on a high setting. It was perfect after two hours in the pot. Served with some naan. And a salad. And, of course, a glass of Linden chardonnay.