roadtrip, part deux!

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now really. Does it get more charming? The cherry/apple/pear trees a-blooming, the mornin’ sun a-shining, the whole place smelling like old mashed grapes… ’twas a fine Saturday to be at Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville, NC, just 20 minutes from Winston-Salem. We arrived just 5 minutes after they opened the doors, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for our first real wine-tasting.

The wine-making process is fascinating, and all the tubes and barrels and tanks were cool.

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Westbend is a small operation, a true mom&pop place, started back in 1972, as the first vineyard to plant French varietals in North Carolina. (Everyone else was doing the sweet muscadine wine at the time.)

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The wine was good- we especially liked the cab and bought the magnum bottle. It was a bit smoky, oaky, robust, but well-balanced.

After Westbend, we drove north-ish for about 45 minutes to Shelton Vineyards for a drastically different experience. Shelton is large and corporate, inhuman and insincere. We didn’t care much for the wines either, but maybe the flavor of the atmosphere tainted the flavor of the wines. The grounds were expansive, heavily landscaped toward the picturesque, and touristy all around. Half the interior was taken up by gift shop merchandise sprawl.

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and the scenery was really nice…

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I got pretty close to that bird, before he freaked out and flew to the other side of the pond…

And then we drove back to ol’ Winston-Salem to wander the streets a bit before nightfall. We found the old cigarette factory, now closed and hulking against the sky, still steel and cold. An entire city block, we circled it and then found our way to the top of an adjacent parking garage for eye-level views.

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Our second date–nearly six months ago– was an afternoon photo safari in the industrial wasteland of North Charleston’s Navy Yard. I must admit, I do love to photograph the wasted and decadent beauty of industry gone cold… There’s a sad irony to the twisted pipes of progress that ruined everything… and then left town.

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I’ve noticed a trend in my photography of abandoned gloves. I have at least half a dozen by now. Perhaps I’ll do a series…

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That’s a car on the sidewalk. Is that art?

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And my favoritest photo of the 298 we took… Eery, ain’t it?

and that’s all I’ve got for this week… up next… well, it’s a mystery… Tune in to find out.

top 10 wines under $15

And now–as promised last week, a fluffy little post about my favorite recently discovered & inexpensive wines. If you’ve had any of these wines, especially the ones that I lack sufficient descriptions for, please comment. And if you’ve had any you’d like to recommend, do that as well, please & thank you.

In order of their discovery:

D’autrefois Pinot Noir & Malbec
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The pinot has been a trusted go-to wine since I  discovered it last summer with my good buddy Joel. It’s a light, peppery cherry and well-balanced. While waxing particularly poetic one evening, I wrote that it tasted like “a little boat made of bark and leaves floating down a dappled woodland stream.” yah, it’s all that.  The Malbec is new on the shelves, and is equally thrilling. Total Wine carries both- $9.99.

Finca Flichman Malbec – 3 months oaked
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Paul will go on & on about his Finca Flichman, though his pronunciation of “Flichman” varies by day. I do know that finca means “ranch”– & that counts for something. Extremely rich/bold- a singular chord of intense flavor. This vineyard also produces Misterio, another Malbec oak-aged 4 months- but Paul insists that the 3 months is better. Total Wine $7.99– but they don’t always have it.

Fat Bastard
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I’ve never met a Fat Bastard that I didn’t like. We’ve had the 2008 Merlot, the 2007 Cab, the 2009 Shiraz. I believe it’s the cab that we like the most- it’s hard to tell from my copious notes there. Easy to find- usually under $10. And that hippo is just so darn cute…

Contempo — 2005 Cab, 2007 Merlot
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November of 2010, Paul wrote “this is my idea of a great wine” of the 2005 cab. Also written is that it “attacks softly, then explodes with flavor & finishes sweet.” We had an argument over who to attribute that quote to, but I’m pretty sure it was me because I’m the poetic one. Long berry finish, smooth tannins. We trusted Contempo & bought it whenever we were at Harris Teeter- & then the unthinkable happened- Contempo let us down. We bought a bottle of cab with no vintage marked on the bottle- and it  tasted like fishy cork. We haven’t gotten any Contempo since then, our hearts were broken. Moral of the story: If you buy it- check the back label & make sure there’s a year marked. If there isn’t, then the wine is from multiple harvests spanning two or more years. Shy away from that– the risk is just too great.

Robert Mondavi Private Collection Cab 2009
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Easy to find, carried by almost any supermarket. Even the Food Lion has it. The label doesn’t come off very easily though…

Graffigna Malbec 2007
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The Malbec from Argentina has flavors of Blackberry, currant, tobacco, oak & spice. 2007 Cab also delicious. Publix carries it, $11

Colores del Sol Malbec 2009
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Another fine Malbec carried by Publix $12. I’ve slacked off on my flavor notes by this point in my journal… But it was definitely worth buying again. And the label is pretty.

Edgewood Estates 2007
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A blend of cab, petit bordeaux and malbec. We splurged on this one- $15– it was Valentine’s Day, & I served butternut squash, black beans (soaked overnight & simmered with jalapenos), spinach salad, and toasted seeduction buns from Whole Foods bakery. It was divine.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cab 2009
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Ordinarily we’d shy away from anything named “Jip Jip Rocks”, but a trusted Total Wine associate by the name of Tiger pointed us to this Australian blend. In Tiger’s honor, Paul & I have declared that this wine is grrrrrrrreat! $15.

Releaf 2009 blend
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This organic wine is Fran’s Pick at Total Wine, & we like Fran. Fran has a good taste in wine & a simpatico palate. It’s a cab/merlot/shiraz blend from South Africa- fruit forward, mellow tannins, smooth & silky, peppery & well-balanced. Served with sweet potato, quinoa with steamed sweet peas & sweet peppers, spinach salad with herbs, avocado & pickled banana peppers. $9.99 AND IT’S ORGANIC, Y’ALL.

cheers!

And so here we go…

And so here we go. I’m blogging again. Somewhere out there in Internetsland, I have spawned and orphaned at least 2 blogs in the past 5 years. This one will be different.

I mean it this time.

srsly.

Because see,  my friend Maddie has this awesome blog, & it made me want to start my own… Because I have lots of stuff to talk about, what with my interests in art & culture, food & wine, theories & rantings

I believe that real art is rare and that there are more people with paintbrushes than there are people with ideas and/or talent.

I believe that our culture is anemic, cannibalistic, and afraid. I aim to do my part to fix that by injecting my own little ray of wholesome sunshine into the world whenever I can, and by being really real …for reals.

I believe food should be respected, especially fruits & vegetables (which is why I prefer to bag my own groceries at the checkout. Nothing pisses me off more than someone manhandling my melons.)

I believe wine is divine. Paul and I are exploring the $10 and less range while developing our palettes, and we’ve discovered some real beauties. I wonder what’s so good about $20+ wine…

I believe our government is trying to kill us. They’ve sold us to the Big Corporations for machine fodder. Lies and conspiracies abound. Trust no one.

I could go on, but I won’t. Not now. But soon…