Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Chihuly Garden & Glass - Seattle, WA
Husband and I visited Seattle for the first time a week ago. For me, the absolute highlight of the trip was our couple of hours spent at Chihuly Garden and Glass at the foot of the Space Needle. It is #1 on Trip Advisor's recommendations for "What to Do in Seattle" for a reason!

All pictures featured here were taken by me. :) Pardon that they're not edited!

(Pro Tip: Purchase tickets online for a better deal - If planning to visit the Space Needle too, you can save $10 by purchasing tickets to both the Needle and the Garden together. Go before 10:00 AM or after 6:00 PM for the better deals! Peak-time hours add about $20/person to the dual-ticket)

Tacoma-native Chihuly, who I previously discussed in my Seaforms and Chandeliers post from 2011, has written his love-letter to the world with this exquisite museum and garden. My own 10-year love affair with his work, so vibrant and free, was absolutely tickled by this visit. And there was a lot to see!

Glass inspired by Native American baskets, glass inspired by seaforms and of course, chandeliers. Neon-infused glass forests, energetic sketches in metallic paint, boats filled with kaleidoscopic orbs, and glass gardenscapes...each and every room took your breath away!

"I never met a color I didn't like." - Dale Chihuly

" itself, of course, is so much like water. If you let it go on its own, it almost ends up looking like something that came from the sea." - Dale Chihuly

"Glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way." - Dale Chihuly

If you have the opportunity to visit Chihuly Garden and Garden, I must insist you take it. It is worth the investment and you will have a wondrous time!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

12 under 20: The Chardonnays!

Hello friends!

Admittedly, I have never been much of a Chardonnay fan. To be a bit crass, the idea of drinking wine that tastes like licking a buttered barrel never really compared to the idea of savoring fresh red berries or luscious tropical fruits. However, it occurred to me that I needed to be fairer to the Chardonnay lovers out there. There hasn’t been a single Chardonnay on my 12 under 20 list yet…until today.

I endeavored to compile not just one, but a few Chardonnays I have tried recently that I think are an excellent compromise for “Chardonnay people” and my personal tastes. It was really fun to learn throughout the process that not all Chardonnays are buttered toast in a glass and that ultimately, I had the wrong idea. 

 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast, 2012 ($19.97 at Total Wine)

This wine is special because it was the wine shared the night some good friends of ours got engaged. Jess, the future bride, is all about Chardonnays and to be perfectly honest, I had her in mind when I felt compelled to do a Chardonnay post. 

This Chardonnay basically has it all: prominent fruits (apples, melons, pineapple), but also toasty oak and a spiciness, blended with soft butter. I had to admit, I really enjoyed this puppy a lot. We shared this wine again at our first time in their new house, pairing with pan-sautéed lemon cod, asparagus, rice with Cajun seasonings, and a mixed green salad.

  14 Hands Chardonnay, 2013 (Can’t find price?! – Assuming under $20)
We got this wine on a whim from someone that didn’t want it (crazy, I know…), so it was a good experimentation opportunity. 

I remember making my husband do a “smell test” to try and figure out what exactly we were smelling when we volatized the esters. Answer: Butterscotch. To me, this wine is all apples and butterscotch. The mouth flavors ended softly and truly favored bright apples with a toast foundation. It is easy to find, and if you like Washington wines this might be a good place to start.

     “446” Noble Vines Chardonnay, 2013 (approx. $11 at Publix)
Because I loved the Noble Vines Pinot Noir so much (check Instagram), I have made a point of trying every other Noble Vines wine I can get my hands on. Publix had a display of just their wines this week and I almost cleaned them out, haha!

The NV Merlot is amazing, their Red Blend is super fun, and their Chardonnay is another butterscotch beauty. The Chard is acidic almost to the point of being effervescent (but not in an invasive way). The taste is full of tart lemon and tangy grapefruit with a silky finish.

      “LIMITED” by Cambridge Cellars, 2013 ($10.99 on California Wine Club, $19.00 regular)
Myself and another woman I work with were recognized at our yearly team meeting for the work that we do. Knowing us well, our supervisors rewarded us with a 6-month wine of the month club (BEST. GIFT. EVER).  This particular club, The California Wine Club, focuses on wines at a great price from small family vineyards you won’t usually find just anywhere. I like the exclusivity of it and I have to say, shipment #1 was a hit!

When I opened up the "LIMITED" BY CAMBRIDGE CELLARS 2013 MONTEREY CHARDONNAY, I was quite pleased with what I tasted. I personally experienced apple cider from the nose and the taste was creamy, peachy, and very easy to sip. I was surprised that I didn’t get really any butter from this Chard – I am going to guess it is steel barrel aged. We paired it with a badia seasoned chicken breast, egg noddles, asparagus, and a lemon hummus butter sauce.

So, a few Chardonnays for you to try. I am going to keep my mind open moving forward in hopes of adding to this list, but for now I have found some Chards I am happy with. I hope you were able to find at least one Chardonnay here that could be an easy, “go-to” Chard for you too!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

12 under 20: Hidden Crush Cabernet and Bree Riesling

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope that thus far 2015 is treating everyone very well. As my first wine post of 2015, I would like to share two wines I discovered over the December holiday (man, I do need to get back to the art side of things sometime...). Though these were first time trials, I think these could easily become classified as "go-to" wines.

Hidden Crush Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - Madera, CA - Avg. $15/bottle
This. Wine.

I discovered this wine while up in Cleveland, OH visiting my grandparents. Our waitress recommended it between two cabs at dinner one night and thence forth, I have been in love. I enjoyed this wine so fantastically that it pained me to turn down another glass (Have to be a responsible driver though).

I am determined to find this wine again and buy many, many bottles. Why, you ask? Easy. This is my perfect cab: It was medium-bodied,  completely red-fruit forward, soft oak, and superficially, I love the bottle design. There was a hint of vanilla on the finish that left a soft, delicate sweetness in contrast to the dash of spice. It was an excellent dichotomy of flavors that left nothing to be desired for me.

Obviously, on the regular I would recommend pairing this kind of wine with grilled burgers or pasta with tomato sauce. I actually had it with a grilled salmon salad that night and thought it was perfectly lovely, so I have to feel this is a versatile pairing wine! Hidden Crush also produces a Chardonnay so be on the look out for that review (if I can find it) down the road!

Bree Riesling 2012 - Qualitswein, Germany - Approx. $12/bottle
A friend gave us this wine as a Christmas gift and I have to say, it surprised me. When I first opened the bottle (such an sleek, modern design...It looks more like a liquor bottle than a wine bottle), I did not immediately smell or taste the sweetness characteristic of most rieslings I have tried. It was very dry to me initially, which I now know is not atypical of German rieslings. I wasn't sure how I felt about it after the first glass, but it was in the following glasses (on other nights, kids) that I realized its true value.

This wine has an light nose of green apple to me. The dry sweetness comes forward with crisp, acidic fruit notes of honeydew melon and a mellow undertone of slate. I think I get a hint of peach from it as well. If you prefer softer white wines (sweet, but not lingering toothache sweet), this would be a great wine for you.

This wine I think absolutely comes alive when paired with foods. We enjoyed it with crock-pot chicken fajitas and with Patak's Mango Curry chicken. This would be a great wine to pair with any Thai or Indian dish, roast turkey, lemon baked rainbow trout, or probably with that salmon salad I had had the Hidden Crush with!

My friends, which wines did you enjoy over the holidays? Which "go-to" wines would you recommend for us to try? 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12 under 20: The Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection

Good day, readers!

Bringing you another vineyard chain today, much like previous posts on Cupcake and Oliver. The Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection wines can be found in just about any grocery store, so they should be super accessible for you to try! They will typically be mid-to-upper priced on my $20 scale.

My Mom introduced me to this label and thus far, I have been pleased with every bottle I have tried. Specifically and most recently, I have enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Pinot Noir, and the Pinot Grigio. On previous occasions, I have also appreciated the Merlot and the Malbec. I still have some tastings to do to cover all varietals in this collection, but today let’s focus on the three I am most familiar with.

The Ivory Label – Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99 at Publix last visit!)
One thing I learned in the last wine class I took was that for a wine to be labeled as a certain varietal, it must merely consist of 75% of that type of grape. For example, this cab! Though labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon, this luscious wine is actually only 78% Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The remaining ingredients consist of 10% Segalin, 7% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc grapes. Though that may seem initially curious to come, a calculated combination of different grapes helps the winemaker create a broader spectrum of unique wines for you to consume!

For those that aren’t too familiar, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is a hybrid of the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc plants (So cabs are basically a blend from the start, right ;)?)! The Cabernet Franc is a fragrant black grape that adds flavors of pepper and dark berries. The addition of that extra pinch of Cabernet Franc grapes may have been with the intention ever-so-slightly weight this wine in favor of those dark, smooth flavors.

This wine by Coppola’s winemaker Corey Beck is rich like velvet, bold, and spicy. It is aged in French Oak barrels, which accentuates its berry-filled fullness. Deep royal garnet in color, it is easy to feel sophisticated while drinking this wine. I’d highly recommend pairing wine with a well-seasoned steak, braised lamb, or spaghetti and meatballs.

The Silver Label – Pinot Noir ($16.99 at Publix last visit!)
This wine was gone almost instantly when served at our Christmas Day dinner! Unlike its Cab cousin, this wine is 100% of its namesake grape. The way this wine was prepared (grown in a region influenced by cooler bay-temperatures, picked in the early morning, and immediately cold-soaked) I think definitely plays a factor in this wine and is why I recommend you make sure it is chilled prior to consumption. This wine has a lovely nose filled with raspberries and cherries, and the French oak barrel aging comes through on the long finish (so you can enjoy it a little longer :)). This wine was exceptional with our turkey and ham Christmas dinner, but I also envision you would enjoy it with lamb burgers, quatro formaggio pizza, or eggplant parmesan. And now I’m hungry…

The Emerald Label – The Pinot Grigio ($11.99 at Publix last visit!)
This darling is 100% Pinot Grigio grape and professes a Northern Italian style. I am partial to the stainless steel barrel aging when it comes to white wines as I feel it lets the complexities of the grape play first fiddle in each sip, rather than the fiber of the barrel. Steel aging for this wine results in a clean, crisp taste like an Anjou pear or green apple. It is light, refreshing, and a perfect pairing for that scrumptious berry salad, white fish entree, or the alfredo pasta you’re having for dinner.

If you are looking for an accessible label that you can count on to provide you with variety, quality, and the right price…give the Francis Coppola Diamond Collection wines a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Cheers, readers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

12 under 20: Relax Riesling

12 under 20: Relax Riesling
I don’t know what it is with me…My “go-to’s” tend to be either bold, fruity reds or the sweetest of whites! I do know that a lot of my friends out there prefer white wines, so let me make a recommendation that you’re sure to enjoy.

Relax Riesling has, for years, been a solid go-to wine for me when I need something sweet, light, and fruity. I find this wine has the versatility to be enjoyed with melons and peaches on a warm summer day or with goat-cheese stuffed dates and sugar cookies on a cozy winter night (I know this because I enjoyed it with sugar cookies just last night!). Aside from desserts, sweet wines like this are also a wonderful complement to spicy Thai or Indian cuisine, fish entrees, and fruit-filled salads. Any way, you should definitely serve it chilled!

Like its clean, modern bottle, this wine is crisp and fresh. I would expect no less from a popular German Riesling! It is so easily sippable you will forget it’s even alcoholic (until you stand up, of course). This would be a great wine to drink while taking a bubble bath or reading a good book on the couch. And if you’re crafty, think of all the fun things you could do with the gorgeous cobalt blue bottle once you’ve enjoyed the contents!

Relax Riesling is a JOY and very accessible; I typically find this in the wine section at my local grocery store at or under $12. I now know that Relax has three other wines as well, so I know what I’m going to try to find next grocery trip!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Artgazer Spotlight: Rebecca Kinsinger Bowman

When we moved into our house, I had the distinct privilege (and challenge) of figuring out just where all of our artwork needed to go. The presentation of a work of art can affect it's reception just as much as the work itself (i.e. El Jaleo at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), and I wanted our art to be seen and appreciated. This inclination felt particularly strong for me with our original works and limited edition prints. It occurred to me, however, that these works would still have a limited viewership among our family and friends. I am so proud of and excited by the works I have accumulated (though the collection may be small), I want to share them with you! So, I'd like to introduce a new series: The Artgazer Spotlight.

Artgazer Spotlight: Rebecca Kinsinger Bowman
This first artist holds a special place in my heart because of her closeness to my family. My mother’s college roommate and long-time family friend Rebecca Bowman works out of southern Ohio. She achieved a BFA from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and comes from a strong line of artistically-gifted Kinsingers (i.e. her brother Jay builds gorgeous wooden bikes!).  

Though she dabbles across the artistic spectrum (for example, her college “Rock-Paint” jewelry), she has been finding success with her animal-detail paintings; specifically, with her detailed animal Totem paintings. The totems combine her great love of wildlife with her affinity for Native American history.

For those not familiar with animal Totems in Native American lore, the totem is a series of animal guides that an individual may call upon throughout their life "to get in touch with specific qualities found within an animal which the person needs, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward." (Source) Animal guides are to advise and protect you throughout your earthly and spiritual journey, and you may have many different guides throughout the course of your life. 

A different friend had inspired me to investigate what my own Totem would be and after an in-depth search, I realized the Horse (My base, my values), the Rabbit (My earthly self), and the Hummingbird (my spiritual self) as my animals. To be clear, you do not just choose whatever animals sound cool to you - You pay attention for animals you see frequently, you dream about, or you feel connected to. My cousin Jimmy identifies with the Mountain Lion; Lacey with the Raven and the Dragon. I am pretty convinced my brother is a Cardinal and a Wolf.

For my graduate school graduation, Mom had Miss Becky create my Totem for me. Oh, how I cried when I pulled them out of the bag. Each canvas (6in x 8 in) had a lovely note written on the back. Husband (who at the time was still Boyfriend), also got emotional because the image of the rabbit looked remarkably like his boyhood pet rabbit, Nibbles. That intuitiveness and attention to who the recipients were made the gift even more special. It was the most incredible gift that I will cherish forever.

These Totem paintings are all typically on the 4 in x 5 in canvas. Miss Becky doesn't use that small space to force the entire animal form; rather, she selects a detailed, close-up shot to fill the composition. My hummingbird is an exception to this standard, as they are already so small. The detail within this small space is absolutely amazing (and my cruddy photographs do not do them any justice). I think the Hummingbird does a pretty good job of showing you the detail and attention Becky puts into her paintings.  

If you are looking for a unique, personal, special gift for a friend or loved one, I highly suggest you check Miss Becky out. I have seen pieces of owls, squirrels, sheep, various birds, tigers, dogs, pandas, lions, and lizards. You don't have to have your Totem figured all out - Even simply your favorite animal can turn into a wonderful painting keepsake you or the animal-lover in your life will love for a lifetime! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

12 under 20: Decoy 2012 Pinot Noir

WELL, I have catching up to do if I’m going to give you 6 more 12 under 20’s by December 31st!

So when we went to Napa back in July, along with Markham we also stopped at Duckhorn. WOW. We did a wine and cheese pairing with them and it was a delightful time (worth the money if you get the chance to go).

Unfortunately, most Duckhorn wines won’t quite make the “under $20” mark for this blog. However, Duckhorn is part of a great ducky family FULL of options that will fit whatever your budget while maintaining their high quality and brand acclaim. Sister vineyards include Decoy, Paraduxx, Migration, Goldeneye, and Canvasback.

12 under 20: Decoy 2012 Pinot Noir
Decoy was the first of Duckhorn’s sister vineyards that we explored (at the store). Husband’s birthday was last week and aside from Chianti’s and Cabs, the man appreciates a good medium-bodied Pinot Noir. We were pairing this wine with a baked, lemon-seasoned salmon, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Most often people would advise pairing a white wine with fish, but for red-drinkers like Husband, the Pinot Noir is an excellent compromise.

The back of the Decoy 2012 Pinot Noir label pretty much sums it up: “The everyday wine for the well-informed.” Consider this post you being informed!

This vintage is 100% Pinot Noir grape, aged in 100% French Oak Aged Burgundy barrels (Luscious!). It was fresh and full of bright, red fruit.  I personally experienced the mouthfeel of cranberries and raspberries and it had a soft, oaky zest to it. This wine was fruity and light enough for those that don’t prefer heavy red wines, but also toasty enough for wine drinkers that enjoy notes of wood and spice.

Their 2013 varietal is sounding more earthy and herbal (lavender, sage, mushroom, white pepper amidst the blue and red berries)…so for those that prefer the warmth and lushness of more fruit, try the 2012 first.

The Decoy Pinot Noir just barely skates under our $20 cap at $19.99 at Total Wine. That tends to be the average price for this wine, though the Internet says some lucky wine aficionados might be able to find the 2012 as low as $15 at some retailers. 

Cheers, readers!