Saturday, August 23, 2014

12 under 20: River Road Pinot Gris & Markham Merlot

Time for another installment of 12 under 20: my selections for 12 wines (or wine brands) to enjoy as "go-to" wines under $20. The wines I want to share today, spots #5 and #6 in the series, are two of my hands-down favorite wines from this summer.

12 under 20: River Road Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Gris
This wine comes to us from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, CA. I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Napa/Sonoma in July and am a little sore, despite a great trip, that we missed this vineyard. Next time!

This wine is unoaked and aged in 100% stainless steel. It is crisp and full of fruit (peach and citrus). The maker's notes suggest a hint of minerality, but to me, it is hardly noticeable in contrast to the the clean, refreshing fruit playing first fiddle. Chicken dishes, cheeses, melons or peaches, salmon or white can pair this wine with so many different dishes or even just enjoy on it's own (as I've been known to do ;))! It has been my go-to white wine of the season.

At Total Wine, this baby goes for $13.99.

12 under 20: Markham Vineyards Merlot
When in Napa, one of the vineyards we happened across was Markham Vineyards. Truth be told, we had not heard of it before, but our accommodations gave us a free wine tasting there as part of our package. We popped by Markham's tasting room between our appointments at Silver Oak and Duckhorn and frankly, we left California more impressed with Markham than any of the wineries we visited. A true diamond, but one you can actually afford!!

The group favorite from this tasting experiences was the Merlot. It was lush with layers of cherry and raspberry and an undertone of vanilla oak (I'm serious - You can taste the subtle vanilla). A few extra notes of dark coffee give it a really full, rich flavor. It is intense, but ohhhhh so good. Do your filet mignon or dark chocolate dessert a real favor by pairing it with this wine.

This wine just makes it into our 12, because on Total Wine it's listed for $19.97. We have found it at Costco as well for around $16.99. We signed up for the Wine Club at Markham SPECIFICALLY because of this wine, if that tells you anything (Members get 30% off!).

If there are any two wines I can convince you to go invest in right now, it is these two. You will not be disappointed, no matter the occasion that arises. Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Art for a Cause: More Love Letters

“When you have nothing to offer, love gives abundantly.”
I have so many love letters that I want to write to the world. I want to write them with my pen, my keys, my actions. I want to write letters to let people know that they are valuable, that they are special, that they are loved, and that they are not alone. I want to write love letters that spread awareness for causes and encourage constructive advocacy. I want to write love letters that encourage joy, wonder, and curiosity. I want to write love letters that inspire you to write your own, because everyone has a unique (literal or not) letter to write. I think, amidst all the tragedies rolling like riptides through our world on a daily basis, we need love letters more than ever. We need joy, wonder, and curiosity. We need hope.

Hope can come in many forms. It may be another person, it may be a positive turn in your day. It can be good news, it can be the chance to start over. It may be a book, a letter, a thought, or even just a kind word.

For many, hope is found through faith. Because so many faith walks are different, the “letters” I have to share with you today span a great many orders of faith. The artistic part is that these faiths are being represented by fragments of their respective illuminated manuscripts. An illuminated manuscript is a body of text supplemented by decoration. This might include borders, illustrations, or ornamental characters. They are truly some of the most exceptional “letters,” at least visually, that I have ever seen.

The Book of Kells: Chi Rho. Attributed to 800 AD. Dublin, Trinity College Library. Source.

Fragment of a Kufic Qur’an. 9th–10th century (ʿAbbasid). Bloomington, Indiana University Lilly Library. Source.

Mishneh Torah. 15th century. Rome, Vatican Library. Source.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara Dispensing Boons: Folio from an Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Manuscript. Early 12th century. New York, Met Museum. Source.

Devananda's Fourteen Auspicious Dreams Foretelling the Birth of Mahavira: Folio from a Kalpasutra Manuscript. ca. 1465. New York: Met Museum. Source.

The organization More Love Letters takes the cause of writing love letters very seriously. They encourage strangers to write positive, uplifting literal letters then hide them for another stranger to find. The letter contains the address for the MLL website so that recipients can share their story, a picture of their note, and their thoughts about receiving such a note online. All letters are anonymous. It is a really fun, creative, selfless way to make someone’s day.

Consider writing a love letter today. It doesn’t have to be a squishy, romantic letter - But a word of encouragement, gratitude, or hope. It can be to someone you know or someone you don’t. I encourage you to write by HAND and not by type. I encourage you to seal it up in a real envelope and mail, deliver, or hide it for your recipient to find. Make someone’s day today! You may find that the act of giving makes you day too.

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it's not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world. But before it produces a transformation in the other person, it has to produce a transformation within us. Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”