Concannon’s Crimson & Clover wine, Revisited

Concannon’s Crimson & Clover wine, Revisited

I’m doing a revisit of Concannon’s Crimson & Clover. My original assessment of it can be found here. I’ve been looking for this wine ever since; to my delight and surprise, I found it up in Tehachapi, last Friday evening. I have since located it in my local store.

Concannon Conservancy Crimson & Clover, 2010 Livermore Valley Red Table Wine Alcohol, 13.7% by volume. Price: Originally $11.99, on sale for $8.40 on a 30% off discount at Vons.

On the Label: “My dad, James Concannon, began his winemaking career over 50 years ago. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he remains one of California’s most innovative and inspiring winemakers. This velvety wine is a living tribute to my father, who was the first to bottle Petite Sirah which continues to thrive in the gravelly soil of the Livermore Valley.

A vibrant red blend of signature Livermore Valley varietals, Crimson & Clover honors my dad’s enduring spirit that runs deep in the Irish roots of our family. This lush wine has deep flavors of blackberries and rich chocolate balanced by a long, silky finish. Pair with black pepper crusted filet mignon or grilled artichoke with tarragon aioli.”

My Take: I remember being slightly disappointed in this wine when I tasted it in February, and wanting another bottle to hold for a few months. I can joyfully say that, YES! THIS is a bottle of wine that any hostess would be pleased to receive, and you can now drink it right after opening. After airing a bit, it’s even better. It has a richness, a lovely jammy flavor that doesn’t get cloying, and goes great with hearty foods. It’s even better with cheese and crackers after dinner.

I enjoyed it up in Tehachapi, and relished it even more at home this past week. I’ve got a bottle stashed away and will most likely buy another bottle (or two) while it’s still on sale. I am SO happy to be able to review this wine again – and even happier that it’s now been released. Originally it was supposed to release in the spring; last week was the first time I’ve seen it on the shelves, and I have been looking. I’m glad they waited.

My Rating: ~ Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Time is pressing and I’m running late for work. The only other wine-related thing I can think of to mention is that we tried the Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay last night – and had to turn it into sangria with the help of a couple of oranges and a slice of lemon. Yeah, it was that bad. But the oranges and lemon made it taste, ever-so-vaguely, like a shadow of a mimosa (orange juice and sparkling wine) without the bubbles. So we managed to save the wine. Now we’ll see how long it takes us to actually drink it…

May your weekend before Christmas be happy, stress-free,  and filled with simple joys. (Stop laughing!) Be good, my lovelies! Merry Yule, Joyous Winter Solstice! (We’re all still here!)

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!


Two Pinots and a Red Blend

Two Pinots and a Red Blend

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10, unless noted otherwise.

I am a happy girl. Rain came to my corner of So Cal. Rain, hail, thunder, lightning, fires (from the lightning), mudslides (from the rain) and flooding (also from the rain). Who said California doesn’t have any weather?!!

When it rains, I like to dig out the stew pot and make a hearty stew, or perhaps a yummy, cooks-forever roast. Since I was at work, I couldn’t get to my happy place today, but the hubby did it for me! As I type, the roast and the bread machine are sending my olfactory senses into happy overdrive. So, for this weather, I’m hauling out three reds I haven’t talked about before – big enough for the roast beast, warming enough for the chill outside. (I even needed a sweater today, and not because of the air conditioning at work, lol!) It’s time to warm up with some red wines!

Clayhouse Red photoClayhouse Wines  Adobe Red, 2009  Central Coast  Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; at BevMo! on their 5cent sale, $17.04 for two.

On the Label: “The Adobe Red is a blend created for that rebellious, hedonistic red wine lover inside of you, rustic like the adobe but refined with sensuous dark fruit flavors. 52% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 15% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 9% Petit Verdot.”

My Take: We bought this on the advice from the guy who works the wine tastings at BevMo. He can be pretty cheerless, but he led us to this wine so I forgive him, lol. Because, Hell Yes. I am a hedonistic, rebellious red wine lover and I’ve never tried to hide it. We just bought this wine during the latest 5cent sale. This wine is big but not too big; soft, but not too soft. It’s got the Zin I prefer (with a nice dash of pepper). It’s what I’ll be opening to go with dinner tonight (sorry, honey! I owe you a bottle).

My Rating: ~ Very, Very Drinkable ~ I can tell you right now, I’ll be going out and stocking up. At $8.50 a bottle, it’s hard to beat.

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Russian River Valley Alcohol, 13.5%
by Volume; $11.99 at Trader Joe’s.

On the Label: Vinted and Bottled by Patrick Slater Wine Co, American Canyon, California (GOSH I love their labeling! But when I googled Patrick Slater Wine Co, I got Pat Slater, a female real estate agent up in wine country. So who knows who’s actually making the wine. Not that it matters.)

My Take: I liked this wine. As much as I didn’t think last week’s Trader Joe’s wine deserved the Grand Reserve title, this one does. It’s fruity, juicy, easy to drink yet holds up to food very well. My guess is this one will attain Slut status once it’s a little bit older.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ And even though it’s over $10, I’ll buy it again!

Thanks to for the photo (check out their review!).

Piper Sonoma Pinot Noir 2009 Sonoma Coast  Alcohol 13.8% by Volume; Not sure of price, but I think it’s around $16 at Pavilions; I might have gotten it on sale for under $10.

On the Label: “For over thirty years, Piper Sonoma has sourced the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes ripened to perfection by the warm Sonoma sun. We’ve crafted this excellent still wine from grapes selected from some of the most outstanding vineyard lots in Sonoma County.”

My Take: I am predisposed to love this wine. Why? Because one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had at a winery was at the Piper Sonoma plant back in 1989. We watched them bottle sparkling wine, and we had a glass of Tete de Cuvee sparkling wine that was probably the best taste of wine I’ve ever had, ever. Ever.

But when I saw this wine in the grocery store, I circled around it for a couple of years. It should have been a no-brainer – my favorite sparkling wine maker, plus one of my favorite drinking wines should equal SPECTACULAR. But – I was worried. What if I didn’t like it? What if it was terrible? What then?

I got over myself and bought a bottle. We drank it. I bought another bottle, just to check it out. Sigh of relief. It didn’t suck!

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ It is juicy, lovely, easy to drink – but not that much better than my favorite Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, and much more expensive. It does have a slightly greater depth to it, though, so when I want a bigger Pinot, I’d turn to this one. I think. Lol!

As usual, these are just my honest opinions, and always depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

No, Seriously…

After eleven years of writing, two books published and one short story, I’m finally taking myself seriously. This past week I’ve been working through Candace Havens’ Fast Draft. The goal is to write five thousand words a day. Over two weeks (which means you get the weekends to bank words), you end up with a 50k novel. Or at least a beginning of a novel, if you write longer.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo. One of those books I will never look at again. The other is book 3 in my Caine Brothers series, and needs serious rewrites which I will be getting to soon. This , Candace Havens’ process, however, made me feel like a real writer.

I gave myself an out. I started back to work last Monday, after major surgery and being off for six weeks. So I said to myself, okay. Three thousand words a day. You can do that. And every weekday last week, I got up and wrote words before I left my house to go to my job. When I could, I wrote AT the job. Then came home, and wrote some more, to make sure I hit my 3k goal. Last Thursday, the Creeping Crud got me and I only wrote a total of 800 some-odd words and I was done. Needed to go to bed, drugged out on Nyquil. Friday I came back and managed over 3k words.

Saturday and Sunday, I kicked ass and hit over 5k both days. At this point, I might add, I don’t know what the hell I’m writing. The setup I’d first envisioned is ALL WRONG and I’ll need to rewrite it, and I figured that out Wednesday night just before falling asleep. Damn and double damn. But.

I pushed through. I wrote those scenes that had to happen. The attraction scene. The sex scene. The confrontation scene. The scene in the rodeo arena. (Okay, maybe that’s just me.)  And through those scenes that had to happen, I started to see my story. So how will the second week of Ms. Havens’ Fast Draft go for me? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll go backwards, and write the beginning again. I don’t know. Don’t care. Because in 9 days, I’ve written over 32k words. Even if a lot of them have to get trashed, I’m learning.

I’m learning about my process, about my story, and that, hell yeah. I’m a real writer, even if it’s taken eleven years to feel this way.

I’m a real writer. Seriously.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Wild Point Island by Kate Lutter

Wild Point Island by Kate Lutter

A new release by my friend, Kate Lutter – check it out!

Cover of Wild Point Island by Kate Lutter

Wild Point Island  – blurb

Banished from Wild Point Island as a child, Ella Pattenson, a half human-half revenant, has managed to hide her true identity as a descendent of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  Thought to have perished, the settlers survived but were transformed into revenants–immortal beings who live forever as long as they remain on the island. 

   Now, Ella must return to the place of her birth to rescue her father from imprisonment and a soon to be unspeakable death.  Her only hope is to trust a seductive revenant who seems to have ties to the corrupt High Council.  Simon Viccars is sexy and like no man she’s ever met. But he’s been trapped on the island for 400 years and is willing to do almost anything for his freedom.

    With the forces of the island conspiring against her, Ella  must risk her father, her heart, and her life on love.   

More about Kate Lutter  

Kate Lutter believes she was born to write. She wrote her first novel when she was in eighth grade, but then almost burned her house down when she tried to incinerate her story in the garbage can because she couldn’t get the plot to turn out right. Now, many years later, she lives in NJ with her husband and five cats (no matches in sight) and spends her days writing contemporary paranormal romances, traveling the world, and hanging out with her four wild sisters. She is happy to report that her debut novel, Wild Point Island, the first in a series, has just been published by Crescent Moon Press. She is busy writing the sequel and her weekly travel blog entitled Hot Blogging with Chuck, which features her very snarky and rascally almost famous cat.






Best Pasta Ever!

Best Pasta Ever!

The best pasta isn’t worried over or measured to death. Did you know that? I didn’t. I have shied away from making pasta since the unforgettable time that I had friends over and didn’t make enough pasta – so cooked regular pasta with my fresh pasta. Yeah. That didn’t work too well.

Recently, I learned a lot from this book, right here.

So avert your eyes from that gummy mess from my past, and look on this…fresh, beautiful pasta. No measuring needed. And believe it or not, but that amount below fed my family of four. No leftovers!

Photo of fresh pasta

fresh-made pasta, waiting for the boiling water

You need flour, an egg or two, and some water. Mix together until it holds; then put dough on a flour-covered board and knead for about five minutes. Let it rest under a bowl on your counter (the same bowl you first mixed it in) for about an hour or so – more or less won’t kill you. (And yes, this is the recipe in the book, more or less. But not verbatim!)

Then roll it out with a rolling pin (or a pasta maker, if you have one), cut with a sharp knife or pizza cutter (I prefer the pizza cutter),  and you can either let it hang like I did until the sauce is made and the water boiling, or you can pile it gently on your cutting board until ready to cook.

Use a big pot, add a generous handful of salt to to the boiling water, and put your pasta in. Once it boils again, watch it – you shouldn’t need more than 3 to 5 minutes depending on how thick your pasta is. Cook until al dente, and top with your favorite sauce.

photo of pasta dish

Delish! And no measuring needed. My oldest son watched me make this batch – he’s going to make it next week, since it is so easy to do. And so tasty.

The sauce, however, was something else entirely. Took way too long (though it was tasty).  This pasta works great with a simple (store bought) pesto sauce, or your favorite jarred sauce, as well as any fresh sauce recipes you may have. Or you can indulge with the following.

My favorite pasta sauce recipe is a garlic-cream-cheese sauce. Ready?  Here’s the recipe – 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup butter, 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese. Chopped fresh basil if you wish.

Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic, stir briefly. Add cream and heat until it thickens and reduces a bit, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t scorch! When thickened, add mozzarella cheese – stir until melted. Add final cheese, and fresh basil if desired. Can be made up to an hour in advance – merely reheat gently over low heat in pan, then pour over pasta. (Now, if you know me, you’ll know I always add more cheese than is called for in the recipe. Always. Just saying.)

I made this for friends, and added in fresh-steamed broccoli. I will also at times cut down the butter to 1/4 cup – there isn’t a noticeable difference in flavor (but yes in calories!). A little of this sauce over pasta goes a long way. (Put a good red wine behind this meal – either a blend that you like, or a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir – and you’ll have a dinner to remember!)

Sorry, no picture of this sauce – I didn’t think to take it. But consider making pasta from scratch – it isn’t as difficult as all the recipe mavens would have you believe. Nor do you need a pasta machine of any kind – though it does roll the dough thinner than you or I can roll it.

Experiment, and get the family involved. You won’t regret it!

Photo of sauce

The time-consuming tomato sauce...


Thanks for stopping by! I hope to get back to regular posts next week. Stay tuned…and remember to Drink Responsibly!

The Best Salad – or, An Ode to Freshness

The Best Salad – or, An Ode to Freshness

I am going to share the best salad I’ve ever eaten. My girlfriend Tally made it for me one year, and I’ve been making it ever since. It’s simple – it has only three ingredients, and if you want you can add/change/endlessly make variations on this salad, but there is a trick to it, which I’ll get to later.

First, heap a bowl with the best fresh spinach you can find. Then (depending on the number of people you’re having) toss in the best quality sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil – chopped or not, as you like – that you can afford. Add a teaspoon or more of the oil – that’s your dressing. Then sprinkle in a handful of feta cheese, and voila! You have a great salad. These three ingredients, when put together, create a tasty, flavorful, healthy salad that will add to any meal, and is better than ANY salad you can get at any restaurant.

It works brilliantly all summer long, as well as in winter. The big trick, though, is the spinach.

It should be as fresh as possible. If you don’t grow your own, then hit up your farmer’s market first thing in the morning. Or go out to a market stand, if you happen to live in a town that has them. When you finger the leaves, they should be firm, crisp to the touch. Don’t settle for bagged grocery store spinach unless you absolutely have to! (Though that spinach is terrific for cooking with.)


If you do put in a vegetable garden each year, or think you might want to start, the best bang for your gardening buck will be in herbs. Why? Herbs are the most expensive item to buy, whether you buy fresh or dried. Rosemary and thyme are perennials; they’ll grow year after year as long as you keep them trimmed and watered. Oregano and marjoram, too, as well as others.

Basil and parsley are best bought early in the season and put into pots, because as winter comes in they will die off. Buy early and buy often – my first bunches of basil this year died due to the strange fluctuating weather we had in March (soft freezes and then 80 degree temps). photo of my garden with spinach

This bed, above, has two types of basil at the foreground, then to the left is a baby spinach plant. There are three of them in a row, then two bigger spinach plants from the nursery. We’ve been munching on that for a month now.  Beyond that, to the right is some thyme – garlic and onions are in this bed, along with the two big sunflowers at the left and the row of sunflowers also at the right. It’s a motley bed, to be sure!

By far the easiest after herbs is spinach. There is nothing – and I mean NOTHING  – like fresh-picked spinach. It’s bursting with flavor and vitamins. In general, the deeper the color of your salad greens, the more nutritious it will be (though to be fair there is a place for iceberg lettuce). So your spinach bed (which is truly gratifying to grow from seed, but you’ll be eating better and sooner off of plants from your nursery) can also play host to some lettuce. Again, I grew some from seed – my plants won’t be ready to eat for quite some time, but once they are I’ll be able to harvest leaves from my lettuces all summer long.

Seeds don’t cost much, and provide a lot of bounty. Go ahead, experiment. You don’t need much to start a garden – just some dirt, some manure to add to the soil, seeds or plants and water. Voila – you’ve got a garden!

Remember though, you’ve gotta get out there and water those seeds every day, twice a day, until they sprout – and then every day, twice a day, until they get big enough to withstand a day without water. When it’s breathtakingly hot, water in the early morning and after the sun has gone down but it’s still light out.

Later, you’ll be able to tell by the plant itself if it needs water. But if you think it does – and the soil around it is dry – it probably does.

We had a real bad grasshopper problem (one or two grasshoppers in your garden will decimate it). Tom planted garlic all over the place, and then we sprayed with a crushed garlic and mineral oil and water mixture – organic, but the bugs hate it. No grasshoppers for the last few weeks – maybe they’ve gone to bug the neighbors!

How about you? Any garden tips? And here’s some apple blossom for you!

photo of apple blossoms

These apple blossoms are now tiny apples! This photo taken 2 weeks ago.


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