A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Off the Vineyard Trail #7: Wrapping up the London Trip

I’ve been home from London for over three weeks and a lot of life has happened from then till now or I would have posted this sooner. Several trips back and forth up the turnpike after my dad caught the flu. Long anxious hours waiting in plague infested ERs trying not to catch anything else. Trips to doctor appointments and hanging out in hospital rooms. In the middle of that, my precious mother-in-law had her own unscheduled hospital visit. This left our kids to parent themselves for a few days while my hubby was on the east coast with his mom and I was with my dad. Add all the back to the school ‘new semester’ meetings and various other activities like Christmas decor cleanup, first of the year check-ups, car repairs and laundry and it’s been a little crazy. You know, regular life.

With the anxiety-filled start to the new year, a gloomy, grumbling spirit has settled over me and I’m in desperate need of a reminder of the good parts and a heavy dose of cheering. 

So pretend for a minute you came over for dinner and we’ve now retired to the den to sip port or sherry while I pour the coffee. Then suddenly, my husband rolls out the old slide projector and says “We’ve got some amazing pictures from our trip! I just know you’re gonna love them.”

And I hit the lights . . . 


One early rainy morning, we cruised the Thames down to Greenwich like the Kings of old to the Old Royal Naval College and gawked at the fastest sailing ship in the world, the Cutty Sark, walked around the University of Greenwich and hiked up the hill to the original Royal Observatory where I planted my boots in two separate hemispheres. 

The closest I came to the London Eye.


Lambeth – Waterloo

The day before, we’d stopped at the Albert Memorial to take in the continents . . .

Albert Memorial

On to Greenwich:

Cutty Sark

Commodore Goodenough. He must have been cause they made a bust of him!

Queen’s Mansion which sits in the middle of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The White House is modeled after it.

Royal Naval Academy

Prime Merdian

Old Royal Observatory and Greenwich Mean Time

Me trying to take a selfie while standing in two hemispheres.

The farthest siblings can get from each other. (Picture taken by our thoughtful Director Ms. Neely)


In the afternoon, we toured the Tower of London, which by the way has never been captured in a war. Interesting fact, ravens are housed on the grounds of this imposing fortress because of an old superstition but with the overcast skies, they were creepy so I didn’t take a picture. 

The White Tower. A wooden staircase is the only way in and can be burned encase of attack. Once inside, be prepared to climb and climb and climb multiple stairs.

Home to the Crown Jewels. The line for viewing the Queen’s bling was almost two hours long and time was limited so we toured the torture towers instead. Priorities!



View of London Bridge from the fortress courtyard.


View of The Shard from the Tower of London as the sun set. Currently, the tallest building in Europe.

After the Tower of London, we hopped the tube and raced to the National Gallery before it closed. The art was a feast for the eyes! I love the fact you can visit all the national museums for free. 

It really exists! Van Gogh.








On New Year’s Eve, my roommate and I along with another friend celebrated with a mini pub crawl starting in our neighborhood at The Old Swan and my first taste of mulled wine. Then to Notting Hill and The Champion to ring in the new year with the locals and glasses of sparkling wine. 


The Champion

The next day was New Year’s and the reason we were in London – the London New Year’s Day Parade! Despite being a city of almost 9 million, the parade had a charming hometown feel. Each borough enters with their version of the parade theme with singers, elaborate floats and intricate costumes. These people take it seriously and are highly entertaining.  However, I eagerly awaited the last act, our high school band. 

Early arrivals across from our Grand Stand.


Our Band preparing to march! Picture by SFHS Directors

Teresa somebody or other, almost as important as our Band.

An amazing day in a charming city. It was a brilliant trip! And I leave you with these random snaps. 

Who wouldn’t want to go to the Mad Hatter???


Inside Christ Church

Grounds of Windsor castle



The Churchill Arms is somewhere under all that greenery.






Lunch with Chilean Winemaker Aurelio Montes Sr. and “The Kings of Cabernet”

“Our philosophy is to produce wine from special terroir and express the real taste of our culture.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.

Presenting the ‘Kings of Cabernet’.  A magical blend of spicy, velvet Latino crooners to celebrate the holidays!  These were Media Samples but the opinions are solely my own. 

I had an opportunity in November to discover Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon by Montes Wines and Argentina Cabernet Sauvignon by Kaiken Wines hosted by #SOMMCHAT and KeeperCollection on twitter. I’ve only had Montes Sauvignon Blanc which is really delicious so I was excited to try their Cabs. They like to call themselves the “Kings of Cabernet.” After tasting three of the four bottles above, I think the moniker fits. They are crafted by one of the founding fathers of Modern Chilean wines, Aurelio Montes Sr. Today, his son, Aurelio Jr., is chief winemaker for their Argentina winery, Kaiken. However, Aurelio Sr. is still a driving force behind Chile’s place in the international wine scene and particularly the U.S. and our hunger for really great Cabs. Fortunately, these wines pair fine quality and value superbly, making them happily accessible to everyone. 

While at university, a young man takes an elective class and winds up changing the path of his life forever. It’s a common story for many of us. You make plans and end up going an entirely different direction. This particular story is of Chilean winemaker, Aurelio Montes Sr. and how he took a wine making class and went on to impact Chile’s wine industry over the next thirty-five years. 

Upon graduation with a degree in Agronomy engineering and a specialty in Oenology, Aurelio traveled and worked as a chief oenologist until 1987 when he partnered with friend, Douglas Murray to found Montes Winery. They shared the dream of elevating the quality and reputation of Chile’s wine beyond low quality, serviceable table wines. This desire meant challenging many of the prevailing wine making conceptions of Chilean wine. They started by picking a dramatically different terroir location for their Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot vines moving from the traditional valley vineyards to planting on the granite foothills of the Apalta mountains in western Colchagua. Montes believed that Chile possessed regions capable of producing high-quality wines if the wine making was also tailored to each area.  

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was invited to join a virtual lunch with Aurelio as he discussed the philosophy behind his successful wineries in Chile and Argentina and particularly their Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Montes and it’s sister winery, Kaiken, in Mendoza, Argentina have received international recognition and honors for their wines.  

“Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon was the 1st premium wine from Chile; the ground-breaker and remains the brilliant wine it has always been. Now a legend, the Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 1987 was our first vintage; the pioneer that showed the way to all others in Chile.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.

Over the years, as with any business, there have been significant changes; Montes wines now own 70% of the vineyards, a winery, and they have a greater intentional focus on environmental conservation efforts. However, in the area of wine making, very little has changed due to their strong belief in tradition and their style. 

Not satisfied with merely elevating the quality and scope of Chile’s wine, Aurelio set his sights across the Andes mountains to neighboring Argentina. He used the same frame work to produce wine that expresses the terroir as well as culture. Interestingly enough,  Argentina is culturally a polar opposite of Chile. Chile is like a proper, organized older brother while Argentina runs like a passionate, gypsy sister. However, their success comes from remaining true to Montes’ vision of cultural expression and high quality standards. 

“The biggest challenge today is that now you compete with all the world, so there is no space for mistakes, precision in wine making is very important. The expression of our terroir is the key to success, making this wine very complex.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.

Montes Cabernet Sauvignon 

You can taste the granite soil in the 2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is elegant, spicy, and loaded with fruit and herbs giving it an earthy quality. Well balanced with long tannins. Delicious with roasted meats and hearty dishes. Solid older brother. Very affordable too. I haven’t opened the award winning Montes Alpha M yet because one: it can age for another 20 years, two: I ran out of time to open it and three: it holds a special-ness about it that I want to savor for a while longer! I’m sure you can relate. 

2012 Montes Alpha M Red Wine Apalta Single Estate SRP: $90
2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley SRP $22.99

Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon

Unlike the more spicy Montes, Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon is softer balanced, ripe red fruit and softer tannins. Both the Ultra and the Terroir Series were pleasantly elegant but my favorite was the Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra. Powerful red fruit with soft rounded tannins. Yum. I enjoyed it immensely. The Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Terrior Series was bolder. Just as good with strong floral and plums, soft, silky and with a touch of vanilla at the end. 

2015 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra Mendoza SRP $24.99
2014 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Petit Verdot Terroir Series Mendoza SRP $16.99

Unique Facts about Chile and Argentina

According to Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible (2001) both countries share a few qualities not seen in other wine regions. Both possess geographical isolation – hemmed in by ocean, mountains, desert and icebergs of  Antarctica, their vineyards have been protected from destructive diseases such as Phylloxera and pests.  Irrigation is plentiful from the melting snow masses of the Andes despite dry soil allowing for high fruit yields. This was one of the causes of low quality wines in the past but modern practices temper the abundance with a focus on lower yield, finer quality. Today, much of their wine is crafted for an international audience and largely exported i.e. the United States and Great Britain. 

Next year, Montes wines has their sight on expanding into a new wine with the launch of their Outer Limits Cinsault from Itata Valley. It is the first Cinsault made by them. It will be interesting to see what happens from these “Kings of Cabernet.”  Cheers!







Our Saturday Sips: 2014 Languedoc Rouge Cuvee

There are approximately three other wine experiences in the past month that I should be posting about by now but procrastination grips me. My baby brother and I had a long discussion on this familial trait recently due to the fact my middle daughter had posted the final draft of her 6 week research paper seconds before the midnight deadline.  She’d started writing it that afternoon. Procrastination runs deep in our family. But I would argue, and baby brother might agree, sometimes the best ideas are birthed at the last minute. Viva la Procrastination!

Anyway,  as my wine experiences have grown, the wine merchant Kermit Lynch has been one I’ve come to trust when picking an new wine. They import French and Italian wines often under the producer name or selected region in an effort to express a region’s terroir. That’s how I came to drink 2014 Languedoc Rouge.  It’s a blend or cuvée of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 5% Cinsault, 5% Carignan sourced from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

It poured dark with refreshing, ripe fruit, herbs and a subtle earthy quality. Supple and easy to drink.  The winemaker, Jean-Claude Zabalia, combines grapes from across the region so you get an overall snapshot of the soils and growing areas of Languedoc. Granted, it’s only a snapshot, but a very tasty one. Cheers!


Europe in a Whirlwind: Sparkling Paris

Home sweet home!

We finally arrived this morning at 2am Oklahoma time after flying 4000 miles and driving 3 hours from Dallas. Half of our group’s luggage, including yours truly, is hopefully on a flight from Atlanta today. Thankfully, Delta held our Atlanta to Dallas flight for us but the luggage was a no go. In the end, I was just grateful to sleep in my own bed. However, I woke up this morning with a part of my heart still in London. My jet lagged brain is giving me a hard time so until my body catches up, here’s the icing on our Paris trip.

The Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes at the top of each hour and it’s a beautiful sight to behold, even on a cold rainy day.

Bon Jour!

Whimsical Oxford and Royal Windsor

I was hoping to post everyday but London, city of 33 boroughs, is so steeped in history that you only have to walk a block before bumping into something unique and historical and running out of time. We just got back from a concert at Cadogan Hall after another jam-packed day which included tour of London high points, Covent Gardens, two of the national museums, and a stroll around Kensington Garden and Hyde Park. Plus cramming on the tube with half of Britain in town for holiday. I am loving the Underground or tube here. You can be anywhere across London in a matter of minutes. I’d like to take it home with me. So here’s what happened yesterday!

Yesterday we did tours of Oxford and Windsor. My feet feel like I’ve been kicking around 900 year old stones but it was worth it. Blue sky broke through the rain just as we arrived in Oxford spot lighting it’s adorable shops and incredible academic history.


However, my favorite was Christ Church and garden inside the University. It was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. I missed the stain glass window depicting Lewis Caroll’s famous tale but got a picture of Hogwarts dining room and the “moving” staircases. Apparently it’s been the inspiration for many a famous author.

No Peel.

From Oxford, we took a coach to Windsor and a tour of Windsor Castle. The views from the State rooms in Windsor Castle were captivating. However, the inside was ornately decorated and in many rooms hosed down in the Queen’s signature color – gold. Unfortunately no inside pictures were allowed. I guess the Queen doesn’t like sharing her decorating style!

And her art collection is amazing.

Sunset at Windsor

Christmas tree in Windsor the town

I’m going to have to go back because there are at least two streets of shops I missed entirely that I know have souvenirs I can’t live without!

Sunny London Welcome

Travel time really flew by quickly, no pun intended, and we were welcomed by beautiful sunny skies this morning as we landed in London.

To keep the jet lag at bay, our guides sent us on a 20 mile audio tour (with all the subway stairs I’m positive I’m not exaggerating) from Westminster to Piccadilly Circus with Buckingham Palace and Parliament in between.

So far both of my kids would like to move here! London is so vibrant and accessible! And filled with tourists so we aren’t sticking out too much!

Big Ben’s getting a makeover!

Friday Morning; Trying to Post on the Go

Good Friday morning friends!

In 5 days, I and my band marching offspring will fly to the bustling city of London and tour till our toes fall off. Then the kids will march around the streets past the heart of London in funny looking outfits joyously playing their little hearts out in the London New Year’s Day Parade.

It’s not everyday one receives an invitation from the Lord Mayor of London to celebrate with the Royals. I’m hoping for a seat next to Harry and Megan in the Grand Stands, or at least in the same section. Heck, I’d settle for a spot next to Wills and Kate. Anyway, I thought I’d see if I can manage posting from my phone about the trip. It might be a tall order for me but WordPress is fully equipped to handle it with the exception of one uncontrollable variable: the faulty flaky human. Anyway, this is my trial run so to speak. The posts may be nothing more than pictures and probably sideways at best! Oh well.

If anyone has tips on getting wine back safely, please do tell. I have my heart set on bringing home bottles of that English Sparkling Wine I’ve heard so much about but didn’t order the wine sleeves on Amazon my resourceful cousin told me to. I’m a procrastinator till the very end.

Ok. I need to wrap this up. Have a happy Christmas and if you see one word titled posts with only a picture. Well, you’ll know at least I tried!

Happy National Sangria Day! Celebrating with Aime Ruca Malen wines

Today is National Sangria Day.

It’s seems a bit out of place having it on December 20th since Sangria is a festive libation I think of mainly in the summer months. However, as I was contemplating this unusual placement, a memory floated back to me of my mother and the holiday gatherings she hosted way back when we lived in Colorado. I’m not sure if it was just a Colorado thing or because it was easy to make and looked festive on the table but mom would often mix up a berry delicious pitcher of Sangria to serve alongside holiday hors d’oeuvres brought by friends and neighbors. Her sangria seemed to appeal to everyone and the evidence was always an empty pitcher at the end of the party.

To celebrate the day, I was invited by Gregory White PR and Bodegas Ruca Malen to mix up a pitcher of Sangria with a couple bottles from their new wine collection Aimé Ruca Malen.  I’m all for starting our holiday break with good cheer. Bodegas Ruca Malen is from Mendoza, Argentina, a wine region well known for producing marvelous Malbec. However, Aimé Ruca Malen is looking to make the holidays even more festive with their newest wine collection and possibly start a new holiday tradition. Unless, many of you already serve sangria at your holiday get-togethers and I’m just behind the times! I’ve always been a late-bloomer. 

“Aimé is a new wine collection inspired by simple, genuine experiences and a zest for life. Our inspiration: to offer wines that bring real enjoyment, wines that are made to be savored and shared in the Argentine way. The accent on Aimé symbolizes a wine that stands apart. We deliver a richness of flavor and pleasure that is the best companion to a life overflowing with friendship and good times.”  



For red wine sangria fans is their 2016 Aimé Ruca Malen Red Blend (Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)  SRP $8.99

And for white sangria fans is their 2016 Aimé Ruca Malen Sweet Moscato   SRP$8.99

I’ve posted a couple recipes at the end of this post encase you want to make something more than fresh orange juice with that box of Christmas fruit you received from a kind relative. In the meantime, we go on holiday break tomorrow, so to celebrate we’ll be pairing a Christmas movie with a pitcher of sangria and Christmas cookies this evening. The movie choices are ‘Jingle All the Way’ with the very quotable actor, Sinbad, or ‘We’re No Angels’ and iconic Humphrey Bogart. I love Humphrey Bogart! 

Happy Holidays everyone! 


Here’s a quick recipe for red sangria for your next holiday gathering:

1Bottle Aimé Ruca Malen Red Blend

2 orange peels, 2 lime wedges, 2 lemon wedges, muddled

1 large blood orange, sliced into small wedges

12 fresh strawberries, 7 quartered, 5 whole

6 oz. Triple Sec 

Sparkling wine or Sparkling water to top

Pour wine into pitcher, add cut fruit and triple sec. Combine throughly. Chill and Enjoy!


For white sangria, here’s a handy recipe: 

1Bottle Aime Sweet Moscato

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into small pieces

1/2 red apple, cored & cut into small pieces

1/2 cup pomegrante seeds

Sparkling Cider or sparkling water to top

Sprig of Mint

*The wines are media samples provided for Sangria day and all other rambling is my own.  Cheers!



Special Delivery

Twenty seven minutes ago, the door bell rang and there stood one of my all-time favorite people.

Dressed from head to toe like a miniature blue Santa with fur lined cap and soot-covered boots,

she had sprung from a shiny, package laden sleigh,

across the lawn and unto the porch making just a slight clatter (I know, cause the dog barked)

Gracefully balancing a box with the festive red label “Adult Signature Required”,

She quickly checked her list once and then twice,

cause I’ve been both naughty and nice.

And with a deft scan of my name and a hurried ‘good day’

she bounded back to her truck

to drive swiftly away.

I love seeing the FedEx and UPS trucks drive into my culs-de-sac. Especially in December. Just makes my heart race cause it usually means good things are on the way. This time it was a hefty bottle of Yao Ming Brut Sparkling Wine from a fellow wine blogger. Very Merry indeed! 



Our Saturday Sips: Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Confession. We actually opened this wine on a Wednesday. It was a very good Wednesday.

My middle daughter had begged me to be a chaperone on the annual Classics Day field trip held at the University of Oklahoma. Unbeknownst  to me, my shrewd girl had an agenda.  One, get out of school and two, meet up and hang out with her sister who attends OU. In order to accomplish this,  my daughter talked her Latin teacher into letting us drive separately by using me as Chaperone bait. There’s usually a scarcity of parents for any high school field trips so I was a welcome addition. However, my girl’s ace in the hole was a packed field trip bus.  In the end, she got her wish; the sisters got to meet up for the afternoon and the college girl got a free lunch.

One highlight of Classics Day was the presenter on the history of Greek Warfare. His vast knowledge of Greek history kept the students extremely engaged. However, I think the real reason for their rapt attention was the sharp, shiny weaponry and the fact he was built like a Gladiator.  Turns out, his other passion is body building. What’s that old saying? You can never judge a book by its cover? The combo definitely works in his favor!


The other reason I wanted to open a bottle  was the fact I  went on a field trip with my daughter and didn’t do anything  to embarrass her in front of her peers.  This might be silly, but trust me, any public outings where my kids don’t roll their eyes over my behavior is a rare event. This may not be reason enough for celebration in your house, but where I live, Teenlandia, it’s practically a National Holiday.

In celebration, I picked up Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 California.  It’s a consistent everyday wine at around $11 and has a nice smooth blend of cherries, plums and  vanilla.  Plus, Bogle Wines are everywhere so those rare occasions you have an eye rolling-free experience with a teenager, you can celebrate without breaking the bank. Cheers!

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