A roundup of my favorite things from the week in the categories of wine, food, travel, and lifestyle.


Anniversary Food & Wines

Strip Steak with Smoked-Butter

This week marked hubby and my 9th wedding anniversary. Though it fell on a weekday it didn’t stop us from going big for dinner. Hubs grilled up some amazing NY strip steaks doused with smoked butter (yes “smoked” butter. More on that another time). I’ve been collecting bottles of wine from our anniversary year (2005) to open during various anniversaries. We don’t open one every year, but this year was different. In light of the devastating Napa earthquake last weekend we decided to drink Napa. Northern California holds a very strong place in our hearts, not only because we lived there for several years, but we also got married there, just outside of wine country.

2005 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon & 2010 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, CA
14.4% abv | $ unknown (purchased several years ago)

Though it had a little age to it, the wine still had some rich expressive dark berry, currant, and rich cherry fruit, with lots of depth and complexity, barely showing signs of age with a hint of stewed tomatoes, and still had some bold tannins. In addition to the rich fruit, we also tasted some spice, sage, mint, eucalyptus, with some chocolate and leather. It left my palate with a lingering minerality. Perhaps it was the mint, but it tingled in an awesome way. As it opened it became more meaty, herbal, and minty. Delicious.

I also wanted to see how the steak would compare with a younger Cab, so we opened one from 2010. Hey, it was our anniversary; we were allowed to open as much wine as we pleased ;)

2010 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
15% abv | $45 (media sample)

If any year holds more significance to us than 2005 it would be 2010, the year our twins were born. This bottle, however, was sent to me as a sample, so I wasn’t going to lay it down for my kids to enjoy when they’re old enough to drink it ;)
… Though I’m now tempted to buy a bunch for myself simply due to the fact that it’s a delicious wine!

This bold Cab began with rich red and black berry fruit, black currant, black cherry, with a touch of cocoa, sweet vanilla and oak. Velvety and smooth textures on the palate with solid tannic backbone. Since this was a younger example, it rightfully showed much more fruit flavors up front, and those rich fruit notes paired beautifully with the succulent juicy seared steak.

I actually preferred this with the steak to the Etude. I think the Etude would have been better suited for a stew or slow braised beef.

2005 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon & 2010 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

This specific Etude Cab may be hard to find now that the winery is onto the 2010 vintage, but I did spy it on Wine.com and K&L, and though Rodney Strong is now onto their 2011 vintage release of this wine you should still be able to find some of the 2010 out in the market.

Beaches and Boxed Wine 


I may have mentioned before that we live in the coolest neighborhood in Portland, and on the coolest street in our neighborhood. We decided to take a neighborhood trip to the beach last weekend with all those cool people. With several people to feed I decided to truck some of the box wine samples I’d received over the summer.

Yeah I said that, I’m about to recommend a boxed wine!

DUCA Garganega/Pinot Grigio 2013 -- Perfect for a day at the beach!

DUCA Garganega/Pinot Grigio 2013

$20 for a 3-liter box (media sample)

This box holds the equivalent of 4 regular bottles of wine, and avoiding excess glass, weight, and room in the cooler proved to be a good thing on the beach.

With soft aromas of pear and apple the wine is crisp, dry, light, and refreshing. The wine was quite light and simple, but definitely did the job of being a refreshing cheap and cheerful offering for this group of thirsty beachgoers on a hot afternoon. It was definitely a winner for our crowd and great for a hot day at the beach and went quite well with the sausages we grilled up.

Good for: the beach, camping, picnics, day drinking, and casual parties (serves a lot for the equivalent of $5/bottle).

TRAVEL (Preview) 


Horse Heaven Hills Wine Region


Next week the hubby and I are headed out to a media tour of the Horse Heaven Hills region of Washington State.

Horse Heaven Hills map

Located in Southeast Washington, with the Yakima Valley appellation to the north and the Columbia River to the south, the Horse Heaven Hills region comprises 570,000 acres (with 11,062 planted to grapes). This region represents 25% of Washington’s total grape production! Though there are over 25 vineyards, there are only 6 commercial wineries and tasting rooms within the region. Suffice to say, it’s fairly remote, yet incredibly important to the states grape production! It’s all about the land and the vineyards here, along with the people behind them.

We will be there meeting with winemakers and growers (most of whom are family farmers) throughout the weekend and soaking up all I can about this incredible region.

2011 McKinley Springs Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, WA

So to prep for the trip, we opened up a bottle of 2011 McKinley Springs Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, WA ($24, media sample), to pair with some smoked ribs earlier in the week. This wine was gorgeous with the rich flavors from the BBQ sauce and tender meat.

The wine was rich and jammy, but not overly intense, with dark black berry fruit, pepper, spice and chocolate. The wine was co-fermented with 4% Viognier adding lovely fragrant aromas. All things added up to a great pairing for bold flavored meat, like smoked ribs.

If this wine is any indication to what lies ahead next week then I’m very excited… especially the potential for some great BBQ finds!

LIFESTYLE (Preview) 


The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon


Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

This weekend is the annual Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, and this will make my second year participating. I even twisted hubby’s arm into joining me this year! I loved running this event last year and can’t wait to do it this year. Even better is that I get to share the load with the hubs!

Stay tuned…




I just got word that Whole Foods Market is offering 20% Off All Rosé Wines this Labor Day Weekend (Fri-Mon)!

Rose wine sale at Whole Foods Market Labor Day Weekend

Since most retailers stop promoting rosé after Labor Day this is a fantastic opportunity to stock up for those cool fall and cold winter months when rosé is hard to come by. I’ll be there this afternoon loading up my cart with some of my favorites.

Did I mention rosé is fantastic for Thanksgiving? Load up this weekend!


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BBQ Corner (part 12) — The Summer of Brisket

August 28, 2014

Just in time for your Labor Day BBQ we have hubby here to tell us all about the magical, mysterious, and challenging world of smoked brisket. By contributing writer Sean, aka “the hubby” I have a love hate relationship with Brisket. I love to barbecue it, but hate how inconsistent my outcome had been over […]

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A Chilean Winemaker in Argentina – Meet Aurelio Montes Jr. of Kaiken Winery

August 27, 2014

“Passion is the best way that I can describe the country of Argentina.” This is how Chilean winemaker Aurelio Montes Jr. described his new home when I met him a few weeks ago.  I had asked him to describe the difference between making wine in Argentina vs. Chile, where he is from. Aurelio (who bears […]

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Stag Hollow Vineyard — creating work-life balance

August 19, 2014

Since the purchase of the new smoker (“Old Smokey” as he’s being referred to throughout our neighborhood), we’ve been asked by nearly all of our family and close friends when we are going to start a BBQ business — as in, give up our day jobs and start a restaurant or catering company.  We chuckle […]

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Friday Favorites – Travel edition (Neskowin, Oregon)

August 15, 2014

A roundup of my favorite things from the week in the categories of wine, food, travel, and lifestyle. TRAVEL   About two weeks ago we decided we needed to get out of town for a weekend. We have not had a vacation in what feels like forever and I needed to get the heck out […]

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BBQ Corner (part 11) — Dry-Aged Beef and Wine Pairing

August 14, 2014

By contributing writer Sean, aka “the hubby” Um, it costs how much? That was my initial response when challenged to understand the unique flavor of dry-aged beef. I’ve had it in restaurants, but you come to expect big prices at a big meat house. But buying it raw from a local butcher? I had to […]

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Best Cheap Wines Under $10

August 5, 2014

  Or rather, how to buy cheap wine for a non-profit event that doesn’t “taste like ass.” A good friend reached out to me recently with a challenge. She was looking for help in getting donations, wine donations specifically, for a fundraising event. That friend was Lynn Johnson, whom you may remember for creating that […]

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Exploring Cabernet Franc — Cornerstone Cellars

July 30, 2014

I first knew of Craig Camp, of Cornerstone Cellars, several years ago through the Wine Bloggers Conference, but our paths never crossed.  I’m not sure why.  It wasn’t until, several years later, through the introduction by a mutual friend, Thea, that I was officially introduced to Craig and able to taste a few of the […]

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July Favorites

July 27, 2014

A roundup of my favorite things from the week in the categories of wine, food, travel, and lifestyle. It’s been awhile since I posted my weekly favorites.  This month was a blur, involving lots of travel, visitors, and toddlers who aren’t in preschool for the summer (eek!).  So here are a few favs from the […]

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BBQ Corner (part 10) – How to add incredible flavor to grilled burgers

July 24, 2014

By contributing writer Sean, aka “the hubby” I’m gonna go ahead and say something out loud. Grilled burgers can be very boring. It’s true. Nothing is more uninspiring than frozen beef patties from your local chain supermarket, grilled so wrong they end up overcooked, then placed on a cheap bun with ketchup and mustard. But […]

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