#99 Create a Wine Blend

On January 26, 2019 we attended a wine blending event held at Catoctin Breeze. For a few hours we were winemakers experimenting with four different types of red wines in different combinations to create a Bordeaux-style blend. The wines we chose from were Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Before we began we needed to taste each of the four base wines to give us an idea of what we had to work with and give us ideas of which wines we would choose and at our choice of proportions. (We needed to blend at least two of the wines). Over the two hours, Mary Ann and I worked with another couple, each blending our own combinations of wines. We used measured beakers and measured eyedroppers to get the proper proportions, according to our guess percentages of each wine. We tasted each other’s creations and tried to differentiate the flavors of each of the component wines. After the first round, we all refined our wine selections and proportions. Again, we tasted each other’s creations. Then we voted on our favorite. The group chose mine to present to the winemaker and to the other group of 4 winemakers. I think mine was 45% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Petit Verdot. We liked ours better than the other group.

In the end it was a good time and we drank a lot of wine, some of it good.

Note: We could not create a ‘Bordeaux’ because that is a legally protected name for the wines created in the Bordeaux region of France. There are red, white, and sparkling Bordeaux wines although I have only seen and tasted the reds. In the US, a Bordeaux-style blend of wine is sometimes called ‘Meritage’. However, the name ‘Meritage’ can only be used if the winemaker is licensed by owner of the Meritage trademark, the California-based Meritage Alliance. ‘Bordeaux’ or ‘Meritage’? No big deal. To me it’s just a name for a blended wine.

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#98 Wines – Try 100 Different Wines

This experience was on my initial list: To experience 100 wines. While I have no specific number of wines I have tasted over the past 3 years since retiring, I clearly have achieved this experience. Some of these were written up in the links below.

I taste the most wines when we visit wineries, especially when they are located nearby each other. I also taste wines in wine stores that have a distributer peddling their wines. And there is the buying a wine unseen or drinking a wine that someone else had bought.

We visited the Finger Lakes twice since retiring. May 2016 and August 2017. The ‘Finger Lakes’ has three main lakes with over 100 wineries – Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka. While each time we visited some of the better wineries, we did visit some different ones each time. Over those two trips we visited a total of 17 different wineries for tastings, sampling between 3 and 5 wines at each winery. Our favorites being Lakewood Vineyards (https://lakewoodvineyards.com/) and Swedish Hill Winery (https://swedishhill.com/)

We visited 8 wineries near Charlottesville, Virginia (January 2017 and October 2018). We visited 3 wineries in Nova Scotia, Canada in August 2018. I even visited a winery in Paw Paw, Michigan in November 2017.

We visited 4 wineries in Maryland. We even joined the wine clubs at Catoctin Breeze and Big Cork. We have had several tastings at these wineries of different wines and different years. I even helped harvest grapes in 2017 and 2018 at Catoctin Breeze.   https://www.catoctinbreeze.com/ and https://www.bigcorkvineyards.com/

We have attended several wine tastings at local beer and wine stores, primarily at the Wine Harvest. These tastings include reds, whites, and sparkling from all over the world. I recall wines from California, Washington state, Oregon, Arizona, France, Italy, Australia, Spain, Austria, and British Columbia.

So what do I conclude about the many wines and wineries that I have visited? My first conclusion is that is I have tried a lot of wine. Reds, whites, sparkling, different years, different vineyards, different states, different countries. There are even some wines made of grapes that I had never heard of.

Second, there is a lot of good wine out there and there is bad wine, too. What I think is a good wine, someone else could hate it, and vice versa.

Third, I have definite favorite types of wine. My top 10 include dry sparkling wines, dry whites (Riesling, Burgundy, Viognier, and Chardonnay), and dry reds (Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Petite Verdot, and Barbera). I don’t care for sweet wines.

Fourth, it seems some wines taste better at the winery than at home. This doesn’t happen often, but a few times a wine I really liked at the winery didn’t quite taste as good when I drank it at home. After all, I bought it because I liked it. It could be the temperature of the wine is not right when I serve it at home or I may have just been caught up in the experience at the winery.

Here are links to other experiences involving wine:







#97 Travel Nightmares – Toronto, Part 2

From Retirement Experience #91, one month ago: “In the end, we had enough of Toronto. If we never return to the city, it would be too soon. To be continued? (7/17/18)” (If interested, see link at end of post)

Returning from our second trip to Canada this summer we were flying from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Dulles Airport in Virginia. We needed to change planes in Toronto. From there we were to change planes again in Detroit.

On August 16, 2018 we had a family emergency that caused us to change our vacation plans. While we were originally scheduled to return on August 18th, we needed to return the next day. So, on the morning of August 17th we cancelled our overnight stay planned for Halifax and drove 200 miles straight from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to the airport in Halifax. We changed our flight plans to pick up the same flight later that day. In the meantime, Mary Ann made her plane reservations for the next evening (18th) to fly from Washington to St. Louis. We had to get the flight home on the 17th to make her follow-on flight on the 18th.

Everything looked good as we left Halifax on a clear sunny summer day. However, as we neared Toronto there we encountered weather problems. Our flight was put in a holding pattern and arrived later than scheduled. After deplaning we still had plenty of time to catch our connecting flight. We passed the hurdle of US Customs and thought we were good to go. Then there were more delays – delays departing as well as delays on incoming flights. Our plane was one of the incoming delays. Due to weather problems at the origin airport in the US, it remained grounded. Every half hour or so we would get updates that our flight was delayed another half hour. We waited and waited. The flight was delayed so long that we would never make our Detroit connection. Things were looking bad.

Then the deja vu moment. Our flight was cancelled. We needed to get our luggage from Customs and go back to the ticket counter to work out change of flights for the next day. Us and a few hundred people. Through the confusion we found where we were supposed to line up for changes at the ticket counter. While in line Mary Ann got on the phone to Air Canada to make arrangements. She had a brilliant idea that took a while to sink into my thick skull. Cancel the remaining flight plans, rent a car and drive home. My first thought was, “You got to be kidding me. Drive all the way from Toronto back home in time for you to get on the next plane? Can it be done?” Quick thinker and awesome travel planner she is, she figured we could drive all night with a short sleep and make it home by noon. I still thought it was too long of a drive. A few clicks on her phone and she informed me that it is about an 8 ½ hour drive. OK, we can make it.

We dragged our luggage over to the car rental counters (9 pm.) and requested a one way rental home. Our helpful agent did some checking. There was supposed to be a car available but it wasn’t physically showing up. While we were waiting, a worker returned a key from another customer arrival. For being very unlucky, we finally had some luck. We accepted the rental and by 9:30 we were on the road.

As we started heading out, we realized why flight were being delayed. We hit rain from Toronto well into New York. The further we drove the worse the rain. We had to travel on single lane US routes as there were no interstates going in our direction. Heavy rain and no street lights. It got so bad that we had to stop around midnight to sleep for a few hours.

After sleeping about 5 hours, we got back on the road. It was still raining and difficult to drive until daylight. Eventually it cleared up and we traveled through New York and Pennsylvania until we got to Maryland.

We had enough time to get home and Mary Ann repack for her next trip, but not enough time to pick up our car at the airport. You see, Mary Ann needed to fly out of National Airport (near Washington, DC) and our car was parked in Dulles Airport in rural Virginia. After a brief rest, I drove Mary Ann to the one airport, dropped her off, then drove to the other airport to return the rental and pick up our car.

What a day.

So “In the end, we had enough of Toronto. If we never return to the city, it would be too soon. To be continued?” It had better not be repeated!

(No photographs on this experience. I don’t want to visually remember.)

Retirement Experience 91: (https://937experiences.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/91-tour-city-by-bus-toronto/ )

#96 Bagpipe performance

While we were in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, we learned that there is a significant Scottish influence. In fact, Prince Edward Island has the highest concentration of Scottish descendants of the Canadian provinces (41%). Second highest is Nova Scotia at 32% (Note: ‘Nova Scotia’ is Latin for ‘New Scotland’). The Scottish influence can be seen in their music and dance: Bagpipe and highland/Celtic dancing.

So where do you perfect your skill with bagpipes or Celtic dancing? Why of course, you attend the ‘College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada’ in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Really. A college for piping!

While in Summerside we attended one of their performances. This one was to honor some of the great Scots, appropriately titled: “Great Scot!” This is just another case of me expanding my cultural experiences during retirement.

Purchasing tickets the day of the performance allowed us the unique opportunity to be seated in the front row. Actually the seats weren’t bad. You could hear real well. Real well! Those bagpipes and the drums were loud!

The performance involved the storytelling of some of the great individuals from Scotland throughout history, told with a Scottish accent, of course. Occasionally, the performers would break out in a song. I guess you can’t avoid that, but at least is wasn’t too often. Other times, when it seemed the performers were in the mood, they would break out in bagpipe playing (along with marching band bass drums). Oh, there was a good bit of Celtic dancing thrown in, too. So I guess you could surmise I attended another musical, not your usual musical though.

Seeing the bagpipe players up close, I noticed that it seemed to be physically hard to play the notes on the pipe while continually forcing lungfuls of air into the bag. You really need to have both a good set of lungs and the capability to blow hard into the bag.

This was an interesting retirement experience. (8/15/18)

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Yes, I wasn’t kidding.  The school is called the “College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada.  Located next door to the Ideal Auto Parts store.  HaHa.

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(If you cannot see these photographs, click on the blog link: https://937experiences.wordpress.com/ )

#95 Stay at a Motor Inn

I have not stayed in a motor inn since I was a kid. Yes, that was a long time ago, perhaps 50 years ago. Back then they were common and cheap. You know, the kind of motel where you drive your car right up to your room, walk a few feet and you are in your room.

We needed to stay in a place like this as we had a long drive starting early the next day for our whale watching tour. (Retirement Experience #92: https://937experiences.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/92-whale-watching/ ). It was the best we could do. I thought, hey, another retirement experience. This could be interesting. Well, it was interesting. Not always in the best way.

We stayed in a motor inn north of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was a one story building with about 5 rooms on each side of the tiny main office. There were cottages adjacent to the motel but those were reserved for the employees. The motel was very old. I got the impression the fixtures in the bathroom matched the age of similar fixtures in the house I grew up in Bethesda. So, I deduced these were from circa 1960. About the age of the motor inns I stayed in as a kid.

We arrived just before 10 pm from our long day of driving. We made it just before the owner went to bed for the night. He briefly explained everything. “Here is the key. Donuts in the front office at 8. Smoking area is in the courtyard. Leave the key in the morning. Have a good night.”

The room was ok. Being this far north and on the coast, you would expect it to be cool and breezy. Not. It was warm, humid, and there was no wind. So what’s the big deal? No air conditioning in the room. We usually assume there will be AC, but we kind of forgot the rules for a mid-century motor inn. So we had to open the front and back windows to get a very slight breeze to cool off the room. This resulted in a second problem. The smoking area was out in the courtyard – maybe 30 feet from our room. Since we are not used to being around smokers, the few smokers were very noticeable. With the windows open, not only did we have to smell their smoke we to listen to their loud talk too. Ugh. Warm room or a slightly cooler, smokier room. Decisions, decisions.

After we adjusted to the environment, we had another problem to contend with. I found a few beetles on the tile floor near the bed, about ¾ inches in size. I killed each one I found and barely mentioned it to Mary Ann. I also found one on top of the bedspread. I quietly dispositioned that one, too. All was good until the middle of the night, around 3 am. You guessed it. I had one crawling on my leg inside the covers. A quick adrenalin rush and a quick death for the beetle. That was it for me the rest of the night. No more sleep for me. I needed to make sure Mary Ann did not know about the beetle so she could sleep. I kept an eye open for more beetles. Didn’t want any crawling on her.   6:30 am was slow to arrive. We got out of the motel quickly and didn’t look back.

In defense of this motor inn, it did have a few good qualities. (1) There was a great view of the bay and the cape. However, arriving late and leaving early, we did not see them. And (2) the stay did not cost much. You guessed it, you get what you pay for. HaHa Ouch!

A retirement experience not to be repeated without due diligence. (8/13/18)

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#94 Joggins Fossil Cliffs

While in Nova Scotia we had an opportunity to visit Joggins Fossil Cliffs. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The cliffs are the result of coastline erosion, exposing layers of rock and fossils. These fossils were formed 300 million years ago from the massive quantities of organic matter derived from swamp forests. Besides the fossils, there was plenty of coal deposits. So much so that in the past, ships would dock along the coast to pick up the coal. Before loading the coal, these ships had to be emptied of the ballast, dumping the rocks along the coastline. (Note: this ‘Coal Age’ was 100 million years before dinosaurs.)

We took a guided tour of the area where the geologic history and several different types of fossils were explained to us.

One interesting fact of Bay of Fundy and Joggins Fossil Cliffs is the range of tide changes between low and high tide. According to NOAA, the Bay of Fundy has the highest mean range of tides in the world. Joggins, on the Bay of Fundy, has the 6th highest mean range of tides. The range between high and low tide is 33.2 feet. (Compare this to Ocean City, MD or Nags Head, NC, which have tidal ranges of about 4 feet each.) Of course, this would have been an interesting retirement experience to see the full range, but of course we were limited on time. Hey, we can’t wait all day! And it would be very gradual change. We were fortunate to catch it at low tide. Good thing because if we had arrived at high tide, the park would have been closed as the shore line would be completely underwater. (8/15/18)

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#93 Nova Scotia Wineries

Wineries in Nova Scotia?

Really? Yes.

While visiting Nova Scotia we heard they had some wineries to sample. Since we like wine and we like tasting wines from all over the world, we just had to check a few out. It helped that the wineries were along our planned driving route.

As we traveled through the Annapolis Valley region, we stopped into three wineries – Blomidon Estate Winery, Planters Ridge Winery, and Bear River Vineyard. We were surprised that some of the wines tasted good. We didn’t expect that since we had never even heard of wines from Nova Scotia. We learned the main reason we hadn’t heard of them is that they generally don’t export their wines. In fact, they said they have enough trouble just shipping within Canada. The grapes they grow are similar to the common red and white grapes used for making wine, but there are a few unique grapes that we had not heard of before. The wines made from those unique grapes did not appeal to our tastes.

An interesting thing about Nova Scotian wines is that in some places, the vineyards have been planted since the early 1600’s. Also, since Nova Scotia is a small island province, there are not many wineries. There are only 18 on the island. So we visited more than 15% of their wineries!

At each of the wineries, we had a tasting of several of their wines (reds, whites, and sometimes sparkling wines). We bought a bottle from each winery to enjoy on our trip. We even found a good sparkling wine. We would have visited more wineries but they close early and we ran out of daytime. (8/14/18)

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