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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

I always get a bit nostalgic in September and October.

It reminds me of starting a school year with new clothes, new classes and new things to learn. Everyone seems full of buzz for the possibilities that lie ahead. As I have gotten older I’ve become more nostalgic rather than buzzed. Thinking more about my Christmas holidays (and shopping) and counting the days until I can have my first eggnog latte from Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis.

This year is different. This year I have a feeling of momentum. Momentum building around me and under me and propelling me forward. Anyone with me? For quite a while now I have been standing on a fence. I climbed the fence this time last year when I held my first wine tasting in my flat in London. I had 11 lovely people humour me by listening to my driveling on about wine. I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, I stopped doing it.

Spring came around and I took a ‘break’ to focus on my day job. I took on a wider role at work and started doing longer days and working on the weekend. That left very little time to prepare and deliver tastings. I now find myself 4 months later and missing the buzz. That buzz didn’t really come from putting on wine tastings though. It came from taking a risk and doing something that I loved. Showing myself that I could be more and do more with my skills than I was  working behind a desk.

I read this article the other day and it just hit me. I gave up. I gave up right as I was gaining momentum:

“Think right now about something you keep stopping. You committed to it, but then you suddenly quit because it started to require a little extra elbow grease. A project at work, a relationship, a fitness goal. Remember why you started it, then push onward. Because the more you stop and think about quitting, the longer it’ll take to get to your desired result. Or worse, you’ll never know what it feels like to reach the finish line.”

full article here

But luckily that momentum has come back. Maybe its nature telling me that I am turning yet another year older in a few days and if I’m going to do something different, the time to start is now. So here we go…again.

I’m still looking forward to my first eggnog latte though. Yum.

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I spent the holidays this year with my sister and parents in Minnesota. My sister has moved her family there recently and they have bought a beautiful house in Minnetonka. It was snowy and gorgeous – even though its not the same as Seattle, I felt at home in the icy cold.

In preparation for my trip, I tried out Last Call Wines for the first time to purchase some luxurious wines for greatly discounted prices. I found a Chateau Tanunda Shiraz and a Chilean Carmenere – both were big, bold and IN-YOUR-FACE. I was pleasantly surprised by the Carmenere in particular – which was more balanced and smooth than the Shiraz (too heavy on the oak and the alcohol was quite pronounced). Unfortunately or fortunately – I completely zoned out and never took a picture of the Carmenere but I do have a photo of the wines that we enjoyed on Christmas day (includes a photo of the Shiraz). The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the picture were purchased by my sister and her husband while they were wine tasting near San Diego. Both were lovely and true to character.

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And to tell the rest of the story of the holidays, I’ve included a few pictures – which describe the experience better than words. Winter walks, cookie making and my nephews playing around.

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My 71 year old dad and I went sledding one day after it has snowed a bit the night before. It was icy and pretty rough but my dad handled it like a champ. I however ended up with a ton of bruises and after a spectacular slip while walking on the ice, a really sore head!

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Christmas morning my parents and I loaded up the car and made our way over to my sister’s place for the festivities! Did I mention this was at 6:30 in the morning??

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I hope you and yours had a lovely holiday season. Now on to 2013…

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Make love your goal

How much do I love the 2012 John Lewis ad for Christmas? A lot. And you should too. Yes, its admittedly cheesy and seems to be constantly on the TV…but who can honestly resist Mr & Mrs Snowman?! Not this softy.
For those of you not in the UK, please enjoy the video below. The UK rocks when it comes to Christmas commercials….

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What better time to get up to speed on what wines you like, love and covet than when you are preparing for upcoming festivities with family and friends? There are a million ways to start brushing up on your skills: Head to your local supermarket/wine shop and ask lots of questions (many times they will have tastings available while you browse – just ask), Attend a tasting (lots of places offer tastings – speciality shops, wine shops, liquor stores, etc. Keep your eyes peeled), Talk to your friends (many people have a favorite bottle of wine that they use as their ‘go to’ tipple for any celebration. Ask people you know for suggestions and you may just discover a new gem!).
For my part, I will be hosting, attending and conversing about all things wine in the next two months (have a look at what I’m up to here and sign up if you’re interested). As always, if you want to swap ideas – pull up a chair and let’s chat.

Essentials for any successful holiday: 
Brandy – my favourite is Hennessy VSOP. Top it with a bit of ginger ale for a spritzy buzz or some spicy eggnog for a classic holiday treat
Sparkling wine – the holiday favourite in my household is Prosecco because of its light body, balanced flavour and general yummy-ness (plus it can be enjoyed at any time of day…)
Good, full bodied red wine – this is the absolute must have. I love picking a few favourites each year to share with my family. I am still in the discovery phase for this year’s celebrations and will be using my upcoming tastings to explore a few pre-selected Malbecs, Petit Syrahs, Bordeauxs and Tannats. Stay tuned…

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We had a truly lovely trip to Leavenworth, WA over the holidays. If you have never been and you live in Seattle or nearby – go. It is a cute little German themed (ahem, yes it is a ‘themed’ town, aimed to attract tourists and not a whole lot else) in the mountains near Stevens Pass ski resort (where my dad was a ski instructor for most of his life and a pretty fun, if expensive, place to hit the slopes!). Over the years they have become known for having a whole lot of tasting rooms that cater to people who – well, who like to drink. Some of them offer glasses of their wines and/or tasting platters if you find something you like. Basically, the idea is to make a day of it – We started at the top of the street (bc really, that is what Leavenworth is – one long street) and walked our way slowly down to end before stumbling home. Many of the shops now charge for tastings – which is relatively new. Its only $2 – $5USD pp and many of them will wave the fee if you buy a bottle. What I was surprised and a bit put off by is many of them only wave the fee for your whole party if you buy a bottle of wine per person (i.e. if you have 6 people tasting, as a group you need to buy 6 bottles of wine at that winery). Also, the wines aren’t cheap – across the board they were $10 – $50+ and the quality was not in line with the price in many (if not most) cases. But alas, I did manage to find some real crackers – I’ve included them below.

Willow Crest Leavenworth Red
willowcrestwinery.com
Yummy, gooey, drinkable wine. I took this back to our rented condo the first night (even though all my fellow tasters weren’t impressed by it during the tasting). At $12 it was well below the other (overpriced) bottles on offer and it had a solid structure with a smooth taste. Needless to say after the first night we went back the next day and bought a half case!! A great wine to have on hand that will be sure to impress while not overwhelm. One note/caveat – they share a tasting room with Pasek cellars and unfortunately neither of them update their websites….and as I left all my bottles back in Seattle with my parents I am making a guess that this is Willow Crest and not Pasek (who specialise in fruit wines). Regardless, it doesn’t look like you can successfully buy this online so just give them a call directly at the tasting room: +1 (509) 548-5166

Bella Terrazza Reserve Reisling
http://www.bellaterrazzavineyards.com/
Wow – really tasty and unique reisling. Very interesting and well worth a taste – they left the skins on for quite a while and the result is a slightly heavier style of wine. Fruity and crisp but lacking a bit of the traditional acidity. I really fell in love with this wine – mainly because it was so weird! I bought half a case – probably a bit excessive but I wanted to see what would happen to it after a year. By the end of the christmas holiday I had finished 3 bottles (don’t judge) so I have another 3 waiting for me. I’m nervous about leaving them as I don’t think its a wine to age – but we’ll have to see! Another reason why I liked this wine/winery was the owner. When we visited he was the only one manning the tasting room. He was a young 40-something farmer, passionate about the grapes and pretty much nothing else. He HATED being couped up in the tasting room and was just dying to get back to his vineyard. One thing he mentioned was wanting to find a winemaker to take over the development of his grapes. I wish him the best of luck!

 

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My dad turned 70 this year. He’s still incredible – lots of energy, if only a bit slower moving. As I live in London and my parents are in my hometown of Seattle, I wasn’t able to do anything for his birthday (other than send him a lame card…which even still I never ended up doing. I had it labeled and ready but I really am that big of an oaf that it never made its way to the postal box). In exchange for my complete failure as a daughter, I decided to put on a wine-tasting for him while I was home over the Christmas break. My soon-to-be-in-laws were in town as well so we had a party of 6, making for the perfect social evening! Also my dad loves wine…maybe not as much as I do but he was my initial inspiration for learning more about wine. He knows his Washington reds very well and takes pride in the quality of wine the WA vineyards are creating. I hoped to showcase this for him but also show him a few other examples.
To set the stage, I picked out my dad’s favorite wines – Cabernet (from WA), Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and to a lesser extent Malbec. I didn’t know the winemakers very well so left it up to chance. Some were huge successes – others were complete failures.
I opened the tasting with the WSET approved method for tasting wine (showing off my wine knowledge just a bit…). Look, Smell, Taste and Rate. I talked them through what to look for and told them some basics around the different varietals that we would be tasting.
Overall it was a huge success – though I had to temper my soon-to-be-father-in-law who insists on slugging every tasting measure and can’t help but poke fun at anything and everything…but that is actually a huge part of what made this such a great celebration for my dad. He loves people and loves laughter – mix that with a whole lot of yummy wine and he’s in heaven.
Below are the wines that we tried, listed by our opinion of them (made easy – Love, Like, Nope). Prices range from $8USD – $20USD per bottle at the supermarket.
Love:
Parkers Estate Old Vine Street 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Like:
Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Crest 2009
Renwood Syrah 2008
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2009
Nope:
Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009
Espuela del Gaucho Malbec, Limited Edition Reserve 2010

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Jetlag is a bitch. I got just under 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night…I have no children and my apartment is quiet at night (though quite drafty but that is beside the point). After waking up every 30 minutes or so after 2AM I finally called it quits at 5AM. I made a pot of coffee and settled in to the fact that I was going to be running on fumes today. And boy am I – barely keeping awake at the moment and brain functionality is almost non-extistent…
Beyond that, it has been a relatively good start to the year. I made my resolutions yesterday following the standard barrage of guilt-inducing new year Facebook posts from my Type-A friends. I stuck with all the normal stuff: Lose weight (was necessary prior to the last three months of binge eating and wine consumption…), find a way to quickly become a successful wine entrepreneur, sell my underwater-overpriced condo in the US and buy a house, sort out all of my relationships and instantly become a richer, happier and more beautiful person……
So let’s all raise a glass to completely overly ambitious and thus unrealistic new years resolutions – bring on 2012!!

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Today our little party train jet off to Leavenworth, WA for a few days of respite…and wine tasting!!!
Leavenworth has an incredible little strip of kitschy shops and restaurants (following the Bavarian theme that the town is famous for) as well as some great local wineries – all neatly stacked together on the 1/2 mile strip just off the highway. We like going there for the Christmas set-up (gorgeous) and the relaxation that only a few nights in the mountains can give you.

The wines themselves have never been much to write home about – though I have found a few standouts. 2003 Cabernet Franc from Icicle Ridge Winery. I could only afford one bottle at the time and it is still in my little make-shift cellar ( i.e. a box in my parents’ basement that maintains a perfect 50 degrees F year round – amazing!!) but the resounding flavor when I tasted it was LEATHER – like a big old leather strap. One day I will bring myself to open it and tell you all about it. For now, I will have to see if there are any other beauties up in the mountains that I can bring home.

Enjoy the last week of relaxation before the new year!

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Ahh the infamous work Christmas party…
Always brings about a bit of dread. Should I or should I not have a drink. Well…come on – you are out with your workmates on a weekday with free booze. What else are you going to do but have a few bevvies? It would be rude not to. But then again…there is always the risk of having a Bridget Jones moment on the Karaoke machine…or the dance floor. Alas, throwing caution to the wine…ahem wind, I had attended our work Christmas party last week and did just that – Bridge Jones moment times 3. You be the judge as to whether I have completely screwed my chances of superstardom….

Number of times fallen: 4
Number of full on, on your bum, splayed out on the hard ground, in front of many people who all gasp in horror/embarrassment for you, falls: 2
Alcohol of choice: white wine in small plastic cups
Shoes worn: Ted Baker black peep toe heels (more like skyscrapers actually – they are readily worn in the North of England with short skirts and rarely a jacket in sight)
Locations of falls:
1. While getting IN to the taxi (should have gone home at this stage…). Wine consumed at this stage: 1 glass red, 1 glass mulled wine
2. While walking up the stairs to put my coat in the coat check (yes, you CAN fall UP stairs…). Wine consumed at this stage: no additional…
3. While walking down the stairs from the dance floor (understandable given fake snow on the ground, making it very slippery). Wine consumed at this stage: + 2 glasses white wine
4. While walking down the single step from the bar onto the dance floor (this was the most embarrassing…full on fall into a group of people dancing..and late enough in the night to cause concern around my level of drunkenness. Dare to say very few people thought it was due to my sky high heels…Needless to say, my glass of white wine did NOT remain in tact and instead completely drenched the front of my dress. I quickly and awkwardly got up with the help of an actor dressed as an elf (yes, my company is a bit crazy) and stood in the corner of the room until my embarrassment subsided…

To just cement the whole question as to whether or not it was just the wine, the heels or my bone-crunching clumsiness, I woke up the next morning a bit worse for the wear but functioning. I got myself ready and grabbed the 3x bottles of Cava I bought for my team as a Chrissy pressie. Even though my arms were full I needed a coffee…obviously. So, coffee in hand, box of wine and purse + Mac Air laptop, I walked the remaining 3x blocks into work. A few minutes later I was on the ground. Yet again – I fell:

5. While walking to work, hands full of Cava, Purse and Coffee. Amazingly, nothing spilt or broke. In fact, this blunder was the most graceful fall I think many people would have seen…ever. I slipped with my left boot – slid really – and landed with my legs in a Z shape on the ground. An old man considered whether to help me up (this is the middle of London and I looked rather an expert at falling at this stage so I understand his trepidation) and eventually asked whether I was OK. “Oh yes, just having one of those days” and then I finished the remaining blocks to work. Unscathed thankfully.

Moral of the story?
– White wine IS the best party drink
– High heels should be left at home for work parties
– If you do fall, just blame it on the heels and grab another glass of wine…
– If you fall with coffee in your hands, you are either still drunk or just a complete klutz.

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