A Branch off the True Vine

Post-Thanksgiving: “The Chickens are Fun and Seals Clap”

Happy belated Thanksgiving.

I’ve missed posting anything on OkieWineGirl mainly because this Okie Wine Girl has been wrestling with preparing for the holidays. Honestly, I’ve dreaded Thanksgiving for the past two months. Many nights have been spent being awoken by spinning thoughts of gloom and disaster. Grief gave way to fear and fear turned to anger and anger back to fear. For the first time, my heart understood why many choose to skip the holidays. But the inner part of me, the place where I live, has longed for peace, joy and laughter and a touch of healing. I didn’t, and still don’t, want to waste any more energy on grief or lose more important moments to sorrow. Grief has made me weary and I knew when Thanksgiving arrived, if I was to celebrate with the right perspective, it would have to come from a resource outside of my wounded heart. God was going to have to move in and around me to produce what I longed for because choosing to be thankful was taking a ginormous effort.

Sorry for letting the bummer vibe come out. I thought this was going to be an easy post focused on the love of family and friends, how great the day went, all the blessings from the Lord, the delicious wine my cousin brought from Europe, and reminiscing over a glass of Cava about last Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the more I type, the more I seem to be sinking into melancholy. Our pastor recently reminded us our minds i.e. thoughts, drive our emotions so I’m going to turn back to dwelling on the precious and happy memories of the past week. Where to start? 

The only way to describe how the holiday unfolded is to compare it to relaxing on the couch wrapped in a warm blanket while watching your favorite movie. A comforting blanket knit by God. Comforting inside: a peaceful spirit, and outside: a loving family. Joyful. Peaceful. Easy-going. In the end, none of my fears about the day came to fruition, but only peace surpassing understanding. This had been my prayer when fear came:

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Everyone seem to enjoy the meal and each other. These days, since my mom passed away, I worry a lot about my dad dealing with special occasions. Stress tends to set off his autoimmune disease and tank his diabetes with unfortunate results. However, not this time. Just one more reason to thank the Lord. While I was busy setting up the buffet, I turned around and caught my dad sheepishly grinning at me as he snuck a Heineken from the fridge. I know it was still a hard day for him but he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself as he visited with various relations.

My cousin from Alaska via Arkansas, who loves wine even more than me and got to cruise around Europe and several wineries last month, brought us wine from Mallorca, Spain and Tuscany. I suspect when my cousin retires, she’ll probably move to Tuscany and manage a Wine Tasting venue. Maybe she’ll even give me a job washing the wine glasses to pay for my room, board and wine. img_0086

She brought Gallinas & Focas 2013 Mallorca, Spain 13.5%Alc. It’s comprised of 90% Manto Negro & 10% Syrah. My first Manto Negro. It was slightly sweet with subtle berries and earth and great with turkey. Or so I was told. I’m not a big turkey connoisseur but it was delicious with the small bite I had. However, it went really well with the huge helping of broccoli casserole and homemade cranberry sauce I piled on my plate in lieu of the turkey. Sidenote: My first attempt at fresh cranberry sauce. As the saying goes, “Had I only known”. The recipe is from Suzanne and her blog, apuginthekitchen. I think I’ve mentioned her before. Thanks to her simple and elegant sauce, I basked in a steady stream of compliments. Thank you, Suzanne. Her blog is full of wonderful recipes and photos. Gorgeous photos that stay upright. Give her a read, she’s delightful!

Coming back around, Gallinas & Focas wine is produced through a beautiful and touching collaborative work that benefits those with a few more challenges in life than average folks. The effort is guided by Mallorca Oenologist Francesc Grimalt.

“Hens and Seals is fruit of a collaboration between 4Kilos and non-profit organization Amadip Esment, which helps intellectually disabled adults with job placement, social housing, and apprenticeships. The organization’s members participate in the entire winemaking process and are also behind the wine’s label and name! It is a cheerful and unpretentious wine, with pleasant earthiness and vivid acidity.” – indigowine.com

The label features artwork by Amadip Esment members. The participants also chose the wine’s name which is translated ‘Hens and Seals’ because they thought chickens are fun and seals applaud. What a sweet and precious outlook on life. 

img_0082The second bottle was Fattoria Il Poggio Incantate IGT from Tuscany. Dark berries, light tannins and easy-going. I think my cousin and I have very similar tastes. This wine could be the one to get me to drink more Italian.


Later on over the weekend, my husband and I opened Mercat Brut Cava in honor of my mama. Why Cava? It’s a long story about last Thanksgiving in Little Rock, Arkansas, involving a Secret Wine Santa, a hunt for any place still open selling pizza and a laughter filled breakfast with my parents. We toasted to loved ones and the precious moments you only realize later were really treasures God gives to equip you to face the future.

Oh no. Here I go again with the bummer vibe! Ok, I’m coming out of it by mentally pumping my legs as if on a swing, back up into the blue sky where thoughts of gratefulness float like puffy white clouds. Wow. Channeling a bit of Karen Carpenter there. If you spend any time around me, you’ll quickly discover I have a Hallmark channel/K-Drama heart filled with sentimental cheese and wine.

Well, I think that about raps it up. If I could hug you, I would, but since that’s not an option, please accept a thank you instead. 

Grateful, Allison


The Pre-Holiday Line Up: Philbrook Wine Tasting

On Monday evening, our best and dearest wine shop started the Holidays off early by throwing a pre-holiday wine tasting featuring the wineries from the Philbrook Wine Experience. The Philbrook Wine Experience is a charity wine event that brings together over 40 wineries to raise money for the Philbrook Museum educational programs and museum operations. The Philbrook, located in Tulsa, OK, is a favorite of mine. So, of course, I jumped at the chance to taste some of the wines featured.

Wine + Art = Philanthropy. Tasting and buying wine for the greater good.

Obviously, there wasn’t enough time, space or manpower for our little wine shop to pour all 40 wines so the lineup was cut to 6 starters.


img_9922Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Carneros SRP$21

If I had created the lineup, I would have placed the bubbles last as the Clean-up hitter. The Blanc de Noirs was a deep golden and slightly dry. It had bread yeast aromas and citrus with a mild bitter finish. As I’m writing this, after thoughtful consideration, I concede that Amy, our wine shop somm, may be a better team manager than me. Greeting my Thanksgiving guests with a glass of bubbles could possibly defuse any pre-holiday tensions from previous gatherings that may or may not have transpired. Bubbles potentially puts everyone in a good mood in the first inning. Thank you, Lord. 


img_9915Villa Creek White Blend 2014, Paso Robles SRP $28

This wine has a very small production and wasn’t what I expected as I moved from nose to mouth. Nice and unique. It’s made with 85% Grenache Blanc and 15% Roussanne. The texture changed from racy and bright to a thicker cream soda made of pears, raw apples, herbs and a slightly bitter lemon finish. There was even a touch of effervescence. It’s the one player that loves to surprise you by stealing a base. 


img_9916Joullian Chardonnay, Monterey 2014 SRP $25

Once again, my perception of chardonnay and reality is shifting. Joullian was smooth, creamy and floral with nice stone fruit. Chardonnay has always been a DH for me in the lineup. But I moved it back to starter and brought this one home. This in itself shows how much wine and wine drinkers change over time. I was a child in the chardonnay oak-boom era so I’m not sure why I let other’s past disdain shadow my opinion. I’ve tasted a few oaky butter bombs but recently like merlot, the next generation of chardonnay is a calmer, balanced version of its predecessors. It might not be first or second up but it’s in the top five.



Barra Pinot Noir, Mendocino 2013 SRP$21

Pinot, I love you. Pinot is always a solid hit, steady and dependable. With that biased declaration, I will happily vote Pinot into the hall of fame. This pinot was true to form, spicy, cherries, low acidity and would definitely go well with Thanksgiving dinner. The finish was a little weak but still gets the job done. Barra is estate grown, family-owned and operated, 100% organic vineyard which is always a home run for any team.


img_9920Radicle Vine Red Blend, Columbia Valley SRP$19

It came to the plate swinging with a strong aroma of fruit and berries. There was acidity on the front decked with plums and raspberries and tannins at the end. Overall, it’s the flamboyant player on the team who entertains on and off the field. It’s sourced out of northern Oregon with 4 different grapes in the blend.




Pietro Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast 2013 SRP $23

The team motto on the bottle states, “A century of wine history in every glass”. Pietro Family Cellars sources their grapes from Napa (I suspect Laird), Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County to create this solid hitter. Down to earthiness, it’s very fruit forward with blackberries and smooth tannins. An old world style player that brings experience and balance to a team. Dependable in the present as well as for the length of the contract. I found it delicious.

Happy pre-holiday menu planning, friends and thanks to Amy for getting a decent lineup for the start of the holidays!




p.s. I’m really enjoying this World Series. For one, my team isn’t in it so no pressure. Two, I kinda like both contenders with their storied pasts so it’s just been good old fashioned baseball. Go C!

Off the Vineyard Trail #3: A Wedding in WA Wine Country

Life can be full of irony. For example, I was literally in the middle of Woodinville Wine Country a couple weekends ago and left without visiting a single winery. As you know, occasionally, I like to write about wine and here was a golden opportunity. You could have tossed a bottle any direction and hit a winery and yet, I might as well have been in Death Valley. Surprisingly, I’m not entirely depressed about this fact despite feeling like the boy in the bubble after gazing longingly at winery upon winery and not being able to stop. To emphasize the irony, here’s a map of the area. 



Our hotel was four miles up the winery crowded road from Chateau Ste. Michelle at the bottom of the map. There’s only one reason I’d skip this golden opportunity: I love my brother and his wedding ranked higher than me tasting my way through Washington! The breathtaking beauty of the area was a nice consolation. 

img_9592Mt. Rainier welcomed us on the approach into Seattle. I swear I could have climbed out on the wing and skied down it, that’s how close it felt.

img_9601Sadly, my brother has lived in the Pacific Northwest for nearly a decade and I’ve not once gotten to visit him. I could use the excuse of how expensive it is to go or I might just be a lousy sister. We got up early the next day to explore Seattle with the promise to be back to Woodinville before the 6pm rehearsal. Ha! I’ve been in rushhour in NYC, LA & SanFran but Seattle is a whole different ballgame. With only one day, we hit the highlights: Space Needle, EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum with the Star Trek experience (my baby brother’s a sci-fi nut), Pike Place Market with the flying fish and Starbucks.  


img_9661We enjoyed the view from the top of the Space Needle. Although, Seattle might need to call an exterminator. 




The Space Needle’s outside balcony causes you to unintentionally bump into fellow tourists and get a mild case of motion sickness. There should be warning signs on the doors telling you to brace yourself and leave the coffee cups inside. I watched more than one unsuspecting viewer stumble suddenly into the retaining wall. You’d have thought there was more than just cream in their cup.

Wavy floors of fun

Wavy floors of fun

Next we hopped the Monorail, after paying an exorbitant $4 for a round trip ticket, to watch the sport of fish flinging and ogle the birthplace of $5 cups of coffee. Pike Place Market is a multi-level, cavernous indoor/outdoor farmer’s market on steroids. You can walk for days through the winding passageways and still not see every booth or vendor. 


Scent of money, er, coffee.

Scent of money, er, coffee.




img_9705After playing Turbo Tourist, we got to enjoy a rainy, no wait it stopped . . . . it’s raining again . . . ok, it really has stopped, outdoor Fall Wedding. This was our first family gathering since our mom’s passing in April and it was a much needed welcome celebration. My dad had warned me to dress warmly because it’s more north than Oklahoma. Yeah, I know geography! 55 degrees in Seattle during the rainy season isn’t the same as 55 degrees in Oklahoma. It’s cold. However, Fall in Washington is wonderful. It rained the night we arrived and the trees were dressed in brilliant colors the next morning. My brother and his lovely bride tied the knot at a farm (ironically, not a winery but there was one down the street) and it even stopped raining for the reception. 





A rainbow blessing for the newlyweds.



It was your typical wedding with dancing, hoop-la hoops, badminton and family tattoos. My new sister-in-law fits into our goofy family perfectly and she plans ultra-awesome weddings. 

No tramp stamp for me, thanks.

No tramp stamp for me, thanks.

I did get to drink Washington wine: 14 Hands. Lovely. And sample beer from a keg of Mac & Jack’s African Amber to go with the delicious Falafel Food Truck fare. I think food trucks may be the wedding trend of the future!  

Wedding Caterers

Wedding Caterers

In the end, despite no wineries visits, it was still a very enjoyable trip. And all those wineries gives me a really good excuse to visit my brother and sister-in-law more often in the future beside just wanting to see them. 😉 

Until then, 


Me and my lovable goofball.

Me and my lovable goofball.

Delicious Destructive Force(s) of Nature #WineTasting




Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Florida this morning as I try to put pen to paper to describe a wine tasting at my favorite wine shop recently that introduced me to a small but powerful winery. Oklahomans are familiar with the devastating power of nature. Out here on the plains, unencumbered by mountains or forests, God displays an array of iPhone camera worthy skies. OK, we are totally obsessed with weather, earthquakes, and all types awe-inspiring atmospheric activities. These destructive entities are basically our main source of entertainment on the prairies beside sports. And I’d say we have good reason because if the forecast calls for rain, it really means magnificent torrential, house shaking thunderstorms or tornadoes.

A few Saturdays ago, Force of Nature Wine hit Oklahoma. Produced by Rabble Wine Company from the central coast of California, the wines are as rich and luscious as the labels. Whimsical, vibrantly colored prints of mayhem wrap the bottles with no visible name brand. Mt. Vesuvius erupts in Pompeii on the Cabernet Sauvignon. A Chardonnay kraken destroys a coastal seaport. A Red Blend tornado wipes out a city. A Zinfandel firestorm decimates a village. The labels are actually public domain German woodblock prints from 15 and 16th century.  Heavily textured and embossed.

If you read braille, the word ‘gullible’ is printed down the middle of the Chardonnay label. Unsettling attention grabbers from a winery whose name ‘Rabble’ means a disorderly mob; stirring the comforts of public opinion.

Force of Nature Wine

Force of Nature Wine

I have to say the labels got me excited with their evocative subject matter. I love vibrant artwork and these were intriguing. Vintners and partners Rob Murray and Andrew Nelson go for the unconventional.


img_95542014 Chardonnay, Murmur Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Confession: Chardonnay isn’t my usual white wine pick. The creamy oak tends to be too much for me. Second confession: I bought a second bottle yesterday. 100% Chardonnay. Pale golden, drafts of peaches and delicate flowers with a light chiffon body. The taste was green apples, peaches, and salty toasted nuts, which makes it sound like a cobbler, but in reality is a bright wine with refreshing acidity and a lingering finish. To further shake things up, the chardonnay is bottled in a dead leaf colored bordeaux bottle. I’d say its delicious with a spicy grilled kraken. $23/bottle

img_95482014 Red Blend, Paso Robles

Dark purple with cherries, raspberries and cocoa aromas. This blended firestorm was more like a docile campfire than wicked uncontrollable wildfire. As with a fire, there was smoke, spicy cherries and a dusting of tannins. I’d say this is a good table wine but at $19 not serious enough to call out the fire department.



2014 Zinfandel, Mossfire Ranch, Paso Robles

A tornado of raspberry jam, black cherry and a hint of orange whirl out of this young bright ruby colored wine. The aroma draws you in immediately but there’s a lively ‘wow’ of dark fruit and chocolate on the palate. Crisp tannins and acidity. This isn’t a typical zin. The winemaker said it leans more to old world Primitivo than new world zin which is probably why I liked it. Maybe I’ve been in too many tornadoes, but this one was my favorite of the four tasted. $23


img_98152014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mossfire Ranch, Paso Robles

Dark garnet in the glass, the Cabernet was a beautiful dark berry aroma. Loads of volcanic earth, herbs and bushels of blackberries. The berries made it a bit sweet but it had great balanced tannin. I actually liked it better the second day because the sweetness mellowed like cooled lava rock with a nice long finish. $23

By the end of afternoon, these were my favorite natural disasters. Although, Krakens don’t regularly attack coastal cities, do they? The poor little guy on the label just wants to share his chardonnay!

So keep your eye on the sky or is that wine? Whichever!

Cheers friends,

Allison from Tornado Alley


Kraken sharing Chardonnay


post script: Stay safe dear Florida friends! Praying the hurricane turns into a docile tropical storm. 

Let’s Play with Wine Like We Play with Food

Happy Sunday!

Just wanted to pop in. Praise God, our weather is turning to Fall. I’m ready. I’ve intended to post on wines we’ve enjoyed lately.  I even made it to a wine-tasting yesterday BUT in between watching our son run in the Cowboy Jamboree (cross country race at OK State), picking up daughter #2 from a band clinic and getting daughter #3 to Band-a-palooza, I haven’t had the time.  This week is going to be short for me because I’m flying to Seattle for my brother’s wedding. My brother happens to live in the middle of Washington Wine Country so I’m hoping to make the most of a golden opportunity and visit a few vineyards. We’ll see. I should get to at least the one on the other side of his back fence. You know how it is at family gatherings, there’s never enough time to do everything you plan.

Anyway, today, after reading a food blogger’s post on how to “break into” food blogging in a saturated niche while simultaneously being mesmerized by a photo of a tomato rainbow, I got to thinking. What if we play with wine like we play with food? Then I realized, we already do. Wine and food pairings are already a hot topic with photos and links to recipes flooding social media. Heck, #winestudio religiously encourages participants to post their wine/food pairings and share, share, share. Therefore, Inspiration is at our fingertips.

photo: smittenkitchen.com

photo: smittenkitchen.com Click for blog – here

I’m inspired to start playing with wine. That’s all. Maybe start a supper club called Playing with Wine.  This could be a new fall goal. If you remember, goals are big in our family. Fall is here so it’s time for new goals. Gives everyone a fresh start.

And I leave you with this:

Chardonnay with a Kraken destroying a seaport on the label.





World Peace with a Bottle of Champagne #MWWC27

image: pinterest.com

image: pinterest.com

Alive, effervescent, whimsical, fragile, temporal, celebratory, mirthful, joyous, bright, spirited. Fills you with anticipation. All this from something that appears dainty and fragile and yet wields mesmerizing power.

For the new #MWWC27 word, the current winner, Jim of JVB Uncorked, chose Bubbles. In a flash, my mind traveled from childhood bubbles to Champagne. Utterly captivating and mesmerizing like the opening scene of the movie “Father of the Bride”.  It’s just a screen shot of champagne and bubbles steadily ascending with the promise of something good about to happen. wine-stain1-3

Why are Champagne bubbles so captivating? They sparkle. They shine. There’s a promise of a giddy, tipsy good time. Make a great moment, Greater. Champagne. Champagne has a powerful effect on people. I believe God created bubbles with the sole purpose of making us smile. It just took a while to embrace it.

According to Wikipedia, the loosely accurate Encyclopedia Britannica for the 21st century, the 17th century Champenois wine makers, such as Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon (1638–1715), tried to actually rid their wines of bubbles. The Champagne region longed to emulate their Burgundian cousins. Unfortunately, the long winters suspended the fermenting wine in ice only to have it thaw in spring and produce carbon dioxide. Today, there’s a heady rush at seeing bubbles but in the 17th century, the combination of unbridled bubbles and weak bottles only produced a feeling of anxiety. Bottle explosions were common. Job related injuries and death ranked high among cellar rats. Their vigilant efforts to get rid of the bubble blight left them with nothing but a pale, pink still wine both bitter and strongly acidic. It would take another century for Champagne winemakers to embrace their “flaws” and become who they really are; wine with an ethereal bubble. Sometimes our flaws are what makes us the most interesting.

Fast-forward a couple centuries to modern times. As in today.

Ponder a moment life’s celebrations crowned with a bottle of champagne. Bubbly foam shooting a foot into the air and spraying over everything as the cork pops. Cheers and laughter. Glasses raised in a toast to the future and salute to the past. Why is it that historic occasions are better punctuated by opening a bottle of Veuve Clicquot than a bottle of Jack Daniels? What makes it the copula for life’s momentous occasions? Why not fire up the tea pot or crack open a case of beer to crown life’s victories? Tradition? Or something more powerful? Ironically, the wine flaw monks tried in vain to eradicate now transcends cultures and links mankind in a type of global unification. Champagne goes beyond language, culture, and social mores. Open a bottle and notice how quickly you have everyone’s attention. It’s riveting.

It got me to thinking about our current state of affairs both domestically and internationally. Strife, unrest and tension seem to rue the day. But what if there was one shining element to supersede all this? Maybe there’d be less conflict and war if when a General whipped out his sword and instead of heads, he sabered a few bottles of Champagne? A burst of golden bubbles is a far more pleasant sight than the swift blade of a guillotine or bomb. Maybe if we offered a glass of Champagne to our neighbors there’d be more harmony in the world. Besides, who’s ever felt cross while sipping Champagne? Giddiness. Relaxation. Generosity. But not aggravation. Maybe Champagne is a God-given peace offering. Just think what might be achieved if we shared its powerful, bubbly magic? Now, I’m not naive to believe Champagne will cure all the world’s ills or instantly change men’s hearts. I’m just being fanciful for the moment. But wouldn’t it be nice if it was that simple?

World Peace. With a bottle of Champagne.

A Month of No Wine and a Trip to Planet Oregon




I just spent the entire month of August practically wine-free. Well, there was one glass of Chambourcin from Missouri I drank by myself and the very last bottle of Boulevard Wheat in the fridge, I drank by myself, but that was after spending the day moving our oldest to college.  I say “drank by myself” although technically my husband was on the couch with me watching the Yankees at the time. Other than those two, we wine fasted. The self-imposed hiatus couldn’t have come at an odder time after reviewing everything that happened in August. I compare it to someone going on a diet in November. Just call me Kamikaze and yet, we survived.  

And now the calendar says September. College football started last weekend and the Sooners have decided to keep us in suspense as to their game-winning strategies for the season. Hopefully by the first home game, they’ll warm up to winning. In the meantime, I continue to chant the mantra, “It’s only one game.” I’m praying they start playing like the top ten team I know they are before the September 17th game against Ohio State.  Such is the life of a college football fan. You enjoy the good years with the bad and remember there’s always the next game, unless your quarterback has a torn ACL, then the only thing a Sooner fan has left is to root for the team playing against Texas. We’re mature like that.

Anyway, the month of no wine was short and long simultaneously. Short because it was busy with school starting and we moved a kid to college. I mentioned that, right? Long because there wasn’t time to sit and drink wine on the patio even if we’d wanted to, so I guess in the end it really was a good month to halt wine consumption. 

With September, wine is back on the menu and we celebrated by opening a $25 bottle of Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2014. The label was silent on producer or vineyard but after a long break I really didn’t care. With lightening speed, it was all ‘twist and pour’ then aaahahhhhahhahhaahhh! 


My confidence was high for this wine being a perfect drought breaker after sampling it earlier in the summer at our favorite restaurant, Upper Crust. Great pizza. Delicious wine list. There was no disappointment with Planet Oregon’s deep, dark fruit, cherries, earth and bitter chocolate. If you’re curious, the winemakers are James Cahill and Tony Soter of Soter Vineyards in Dundee, Oregon. The wine is their sustainability project which you can read about here

For the start of Labor day weekend, we opened a Rosé. img_9167

img_9169La Châsse Côte du Rhône Prestige 2015. The rosé was the usual floral, spice and shy red fruit which nicely complemented the 80° evening we enjoyed as we sat gazing into the clear sky and tried to forget the Sooners had just played like a 2A directional school for the season opener. 

Rounding out the weekend was a bottle of Domaine la Millière Châteauneuf-Du-Pape Vieilles Vignes Cuvee Unique 2012. Wow. I wished I had grilled a filet for this bottle but it was just as lovely alone. How is it that a light/medium red can cause an assault of spicy herbs, hints of tobacco and delicious plums that start to speak up as the wine breaths? It was a treat. Oh la la. 


img_9173 img_9174

I have to admit the wine break had a positive effect beyond giving my liver a rest. I had to contemplate other aspects about wine as I lived vicariously through other’s wine blogs. The result: I was forced to think and ask questions instead of blissfully remaining content to only enjoy  and I even expanded my vocabulary. I learned the term ‘tight’ which means “the fruit usually needs more time in the glass or additional aging in the cellar.”  

Cheers to your college team opening the season well (unless you’re Texas. Yes I know they won against Notre Dame).

Until we meet again, Cheers!


Off the Vineyard Trail #2 – It’s Marching Band Season!


It’s the first week of August and temperatures outside are over a 100 so that can mean only one thing: Marching Band season is here and we are right in the middle of Band Camp. I have two lovable band geeks (trombone and clarinet) who got up before daybreak on Monday morning to prepare for another year of Battle of the Bands. Our tiny town alone has three high schools and the stakes for ‘Best Band’ bragging rights are high. I’m impressed every year by the number of students who willingly endure grueling hours of practice, sunburn, heatstroke and blisters to be able to strut their musically choreographed talents before a football crowd on Friday nights. Let me tell you, it’s good times!

Camp is a 12 hours a day, total immersion experience where only the truly committed survive. By Monday evening, our clarinet player (a freshman trying to keep up with her hyperactive brother, a junior and trombonist) reported they’d lost four. After Wednesday morning, some had moved to the color guard, others quit and in the end, 26 clarinets had fallen to 13. The summer heat had taken them out. Literally. I guess the sight of fellow bandmates being carted off the field was unnerving or it could’ve been the uniforms they were issued. Who knows? Regardless, I’m convinced that any kid who survives marching season is as tough as the football team. Forgive me, it’s the crazy band parent pride talking.

When we became “band parents” two years ago, we’d only heard faint rumors about the commitment required for band. That first month about killed me but my son was so excited to have finally found his tribe, I curtailed the complaining and tried to enjoy the exhausting experience. I’m pretty sure that’s when my two cups of morning coffee jumped to three. Then came the first marching contest. Wow. This was seriously Big Time. Well-equipped, mini band villages sprang up all over the  stadium parking lot. Each band had their territory  carefully staked out with school flags, tents, equipment trailers, buses and RVs. At our “band village”, a couple of the dads had set up a large tent with chairs, tables, and a 60inch TV to watch the football games. A second tent was for serving  meals. Massive grills and coolers lined the periphery. They grilled chicken. And served homemade potato salad, baked beans, fruit, corn on the cob and dessert. I recite the menu because I naively thought serving sandwiches would’ve been sufficient. Shame on me! We are raising band champs, people! How else will we beat the eastern Oklahoma schools? They need real meals to succeed! Then it hit me. Band was serious and subsequently, band parents (like football, dance, soccer, baseball, etc.) have no lives, I mean, love their kids. A lot.

Actually, it’s been a great experience for our whole family. I’ve seen my kids grow and excel and they’ve gotten to hang out with some pretty incredible people. Then there’s the band parents and their crazy dedication. They will do anything and everything for the band: cook 200 hot meals, hem uniforms, drive equipment trailers at 3am, host 70 girls for a sleepover, lift heavy show props. Whatever’s needed.

Which brings me to the last few days of camp and the start our third marching season. It’s 100+ outside and the oven’s on cause I’m baking dozens of chocolate chip cookie bars for band camp lunch.  The transformation is complete. I’ve morphed into a crazy band parent.

GO WOLVES! Beat Broken Arrow!

Now for a little band humor . . .

done band


Zombie band


dino band



Chilling On the Patio with Torre La Moreira Albarino

Hola! I have finally opened the last of the #winestudio Albariños from the two months exploration of Rías Baixas DO on the southwestern coast of Galicia, Spain. You could say we were practically swimming in them! It’s been a very enjoyable journey and I have that feeling you get from finishing a really good book. A mixture of contented satisfaction tinged with sadness that it’s over. I really liked this last bottle with it’s classic crisp citrus characteristics. Once again, if you haven’t tried Albariño then put down the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio you’ve had on the patio all summer and try one. Trust me, many are excellent drinking solo be it sans food or people and this one was no exception.

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Bodegas Marqués de Vizhoja, 2015 Torre La Moreira DO Rías Baixas

  • 100% Albariño
  • 12.5% ALC.
  • SRP: $9

The Torre La Moreira poured clear with a hint of yellow and muted aromas of  tropical fruits and seashells. The first taste was tingly acidity on the tongue. It reminded me of the sea as the waves roll to and fro on the shore leaving tiny bubbles in its wake, clear, lively and very, very temporal. Classic lemon zest, limes, herbal notes and minerals. Everything you would expect of an albariño. It was a mouthful of acidity and sunshine with a lengthy lemon finish. Torre La Moreira definitely stays with you long after the final drop is gone.


Torre La Moriera comes in a cool flask shaped bottle sealed with wax over the top of the cork.  I forgot to get a picture before we opened the bottle but that little piece of red wax was flush with the top.   The next time you’re stocking up with refreshing whites to tame the summer heat,  grab a bottle of albariño . You might just find yourself cooled down with a crisp tingly taste of the Galician seashore.  img_8791


Happy summer sipping!


WhirlWind Winery in Watonga, Oklahoma

Have you ever stumbled upon a ghost town?  A lonely Main street dressed in decaying storefronts and dilapidated buildings. Empty east to west as far as the eye can see? Which seems as far as Texas when you’re in the western plains of Oklahoma. I stumbled upon one over the weekend. With one exception. In the center of the barren avenue, between practically the only other businesses left open, an antique store on one side and a live theater on the other, was a tiny working winery and tasting room pioneered by a gregarious winemaker. 

Whirlwind Winery

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Whirlwind Winery in Watonga was founded by winemaker Brad Stinson of Fay, Oklahoma ten years ago. As we stepped through the door, we were taken in immediately by Brad’s welcoming nature, the cozy tasting room and the scent of fermenting wine from a ginormous wine spill. It’s also a working winery so wine accidents happen! 




Brad getting the heavenly goat cheese.

Brad getting the heavenly goat cheese.

The place was quiet for a Saturday which I thought was a wonderful advantage. My husband and I immediately moved in and made it our home away from home. Brad didn’t seem to mind. He pointed to a table he’d prepared for us and then poured us an almost full glass of his Sweet Fay Rosé which he’d paired with probably the best goat cheese I’ve ever tasted from Middle Mountain Dairy in Clayton,Oklahoma. The rosé was blushing pink and tasted of slightly sweet fruit. I was tempted to finish it off but that would have been the end of the tasting for me. Did I mention the glass was generously poured? And so were the next four that followed! Brad definitely makes you feel like a friend just popping in for an afternoon chat. As he plied us with wine we peppered him with questions. How did he wind up a winemaker in Oklahoma? After traveling the world with a cruise line and falling in love with the vineyards of Bordeaux, France, he came home to plant and cultivate a plot of vines he’d purchased with his father in 2002. He partnered with two other investors and winemaking moved from being a hobby to a viable lifestyle. His passion for making wine and having a successful winery was evident. Currently, Whirlwind Winery has approximately 3200 vines  across three vineyards. 




Next, we tasted Honey Apple, a semi-dry mead, paired with an Oklahoma Italian cheese-maker, Lovera’s Smoked Cow Cheese. The smokiness of the cheese paired deliciously with the sweetness of the apple. Whirlwind acquires honey from a variety of sources to make this flavorful mead. This was my first mead wine and it was definitely sweet.

photo - pinterest.com

photo – pinterest.com

Wild Sand Plum with Oklahoma “Gruyère” was the third pairing. Wild sand plums are native to Oklahoma and grow like weeds. In fact, I have one in the field behind my house that my kids like to pick. Brad said he’s aim was to make an “all Oklahoma wine.” This is the only sand plum fruit wine in the world. It was paired with a funky, pungent, rough “gruyère” made by Wagon Creek Creamery  out of Helena, OK. Brad called it a “crazy pairing” and heartily encouraged us to try it. The cheese was rough but paired with the wild plum’s supple sweet taste the flavors melded into a creamy treat. It’s a classic example of how wine and food can compliment and work very well together! 

As Brad poured the next pairing, he lamented he’d hoped to make dry reds when he opened the winery in 2005. But Oklahomans have sweeter tastes so the winery focused on more sweet offerings. However, he does make two really nice reds. The first one was a dry red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot named Stiletto. Dark red but bright in the glass, it was earthy, rustic tart cherries, vanilla and nice tannin. I asked him about learning to make wine and he laughed. Making wine is super easy. It’s really hard making good wine.” Stiletto is a good start!

The second wine was Sojourn Red Blend 2012, a bright, dry, medium bodied wine with berries and cocoa.  img_8747

At this point a group of ten had shown up for a tasting way earlier than their reservation time. At larger wineries this might not be a problem but Brad was a one man show that day. He warned us it was about to get a little crazy. I think he was trying to tell us we might feel neglected for a short time. No problem. As Brad got them settled, the first glass poured and was talking them through the first pairing, we relaxed, peeked at the current fermenting wines, and took a second listen to the winery history. img_8702

To keep us busy, as he hustled to set up more chairs, he’d given us a huge bowl of dark chocolate made by Bedré Chocolates of Oklahoma and the instructions to eat it with the Sojourn. Wow. Chocolate and wine are truly a marriage made in heaven. Note to all chocolate lovers – Brad believes in generous portions! As we wrapped up the afternoon, Brad snapped this picture. Good times! 

Selfies w the Winemaker

Selfies w the Winemaker

Whirlwind Winery offers wine tastings Fridays and Saturdays 12-6 pm. If you find yourself driving through the plains of Western Oklahoma, I encourage you to stop by and try the Wild Sand Plum. You’ll be tasting a bit of Oklahoma and you’ll most likely get to hangout with Brad. Trust me, he’s a funny guy and he has wine!

~ Allison

p.s. If you do go, let me know! I need to go back cause my bottle of Sojourn 2012 is already empty! 




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