Controlling my inner Control Freak

By the time Wednesday came along I had already had it with this week and was soooo ready for Front Porch Wine Tasting. Steve and I went to a business meeting in Reno on Monday. Always nice to change things up a bit, get out of town & take a nice peaceful drive through the mountains. Except … my inner control freak ruins the lovely drive every time. I can’t even describe the torture of driving while sitting in the passenger seat. (Terry says that’s a Freudian slip, lol) Steve is a perfectly capable driver. But, as the drive goes on I notice that I’m gripping the door handle and gasping when the traffic slows. I wonder if Steve may not always being paying close enough attention to the road. I force myself to keep quiet and stare out the side window instead of watch where we’re going while I try (and fail) to not think about every worst case scenario possible. I notice every fail in the railing system that exists to stop cars from falling off the mountain roads, every distracted driver that threatens all the cars on the road and I consider all the things that could go wrong with my car mechanically. I feel myself tensing up as I re-live it even in story-telling mode. Whew! Deep cleansing breath. Well, if the ride up wasn’t bad enough, that storm that hit Tuesday night on our way back as we went through Donner Pass (of all places!) made this the most treacherous drive I have ever experienced. So far.

If you don’t have any control issues, you may not understand the anxiety that arises in a situation like this. Or, you may be a control freak and not even know it! Does any of this apply to you?:

  • You make lists for everything in your life
  • You can’t stand it when you’re in a car but not driving
  • Your vacations tend to be structured and active
  • You don’t like people touching your stuff
  • You think it’s easier to do things yourself, rather than trusting someone else to do it
  • You leave off all unflattering items from the list that describe control freaks

Take this personality quiz from  to check how much of a control freak you really are. My results: 48%, not as bad as I thought. “Generally, you are in control but not a control freak. Your life is usually in order. However, sometimes you get too obsessed with making everything in your life picture perfect.”

Bring on the wine! Sometimes it’s the only way to control your inner control freak 🙂

03 28 14 four wines

Echelon Pinot Grigio ~ Barking Sheep Chard ~ Chill Out Malbec ~ Perry Creek Zinman


echelon pinot grigio

2011 Echelon Pinot Grigio $3.99

Elsewhere price $9.99



Silver Medal: Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition 2013

Silver Medal: BTI, World Wine Championship 2013

Silver Medal: San Diego International Wine Competition 2013

Silver Medal: New World International Wine Competition 2013

Silver Medal: Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition 2012

RATING: 85 points (Highly Recommended) source

On first sip, I noticed a tartness in this Pinot Grigio. It was crisp and refreshing. Terry liked it, Larry said it was very light. Steve tasted pear, Terry commented that Steve always tastes pear. Arvin thought it was thick and full bodied and Becky said it was a pretty good Pinot. We all thought it paired well with chicken parm sliders we had. We finished the whole bottle J

On-line review: Deep straw with a light pink gray cast. Peaches and lime yogurt with a light underlayment of earth. Easy entry and mid-palate with a taut finish. Pleasant with nice table friendly acidity


barking sheep chardonnay

2008 Barking Sheep Chardonnay $4.99

Elsewhere price $12.99

Larry liked the color and he tasted grapefruit. Terry said it looks fresh and she either likes a wine or doesn’t – & she likes this one. Becky thought it would go well with chicken or fish Arvin said it’s got a bite to it.

Winemaker’s notes: Barking Sheep Chardonnay; explosive, fruity without being sweet, pippin apples and a bit of peach, stylish with herb dishes, salmon and chicken.


chill out malbec

Chill Out Malbec $2.99

Elsewhere price $6.99

Joe liked the earthiness and Becky commented that it started sweet and fruity. Larry and I both liked it. Becky and Steve agreed that it became dryer with the second taste. Paired well with the Pepper Boursin Cheese and crackers.

From the bottle: Our medium to full bodied Malbec has notes of berries and plum, with rich tannins and a lush finish. A satisfying red wine from the first sip. Pair it with beef carnitas, coconut curry, vegetables or simply as you chill out and unwind.



2010 Perry Creek Zinman Reserve Zinfandel $8.99

Elsewhere price $23.99

92 points on

Becky immediately commented this smells GOOD. Arvin and Joe agreed that that is their favorite smell –the Zin Grape. They said it tasted dry and rich and Arvin liked the afterglow. Joe thought the label reminded him of that Blair Witch movie. Steve liked this from sip #1. We finished this bottle.

On-line review: First impression is bold and pleasing. This wine goes well with fillet and Cabernet reduction. On the nose there is dark raspberry, licorice, and hickory. On the palate, there is stone fruit, fennel, spice, with a nice juicy balanced finish. This is a very nice example of a balanced Zinfandel. This is an enjoyable wine.


What Inspires You?

Outdoor dining season is here! I’ve literally been working on fixing up my backyard for two years. It’s really kinda close to being done about halfway done…

Instead of taking advantage of the great weather the past couple weeks and finishing the landscaping, I stayed true to form and started a new project in the backyard that could also be left almost completed (for now). It’s a really simple design, my son Jake built the skeleton (in record breaking slow motion). He used stainless steel deck plates that we happened to have laying around for the counter tops. Then I used fence boards to finish it. The unfinished part is the shade. Stainless steel will definitely need to be in the shade before summer, it’s already really shiny. So, a gazebo (from my favorite Bargain Market, perhaps) may be in order…

outdoor kitchen 1     outdoor kitchen 2

Welcome to the outdoor kitchen

I don’t know if it could actually be classified as a ‘Kitchen’. It has no electricity for a mini fridge (yet) and there’s no sink or running water – even though I have mentally ran water lines every possible route from the source to the new kitchen. Every route is completely complicated. So, maybe it’s more like an outdoor food prep/bar. But it’s enough. And, it inspired me to move Front Porch Wine Tasting to the back porch!

And, in turn, drinking on the back porch inspired me to add a couple of Fancy Craft Beers to the tasting menu

Quimera craft beers

Quimera Premium Craft Beer from Chile

750 ml Amber Ale or Imperial Stout $3.19

Elsewhere price $11.99

We tried the Stout first, it is very dark with brown foam. Smelled kind of sweet and tasted of burnt caramel. I don’t usually like dark beers, but I didn’t hate this as much as I thought I would. Arvin tasted cocoa and Connie tasted coffee. Steve definitely liked it. He said it tasted like good clean dirt. I have no idea what that means.

On-line review: This Chilean Impy Stout pours pitch black with an off-white head that lingers. Intense malty aroma with notes of burnt sugars, molasses, dark chocolate, cigar smoke, tar and ashes. Taste is sweet with an ashy hint, not overly complex but with good development in the mouth and thoroughly enjoyable. Body is big with a dense texture. Almost viscous and chewy. The 8.2% alcohol is well disguised. A well-made strong stout.

I really enjoyed the Amber Ale. It had a nice creamy colored foam, you have to be careful when you pour or you’ll get way too much of it. Everyone liked this one. It was an easy drinking beer. Steve commented that he would enjoy this beer during a Packer win or even a loss.

On-line review: Poured a very pleasant amber color with minimal head. Nose was nearly pure malt and this followed through in the mouth. A very nice beer.


Then, on to the wine…

03 21 14 four wines

 Eco Love Riesling ~ Blue Fish Riesling ~ Washington Hills Syrah ~ Lady in Red Cabernet

For some reason I was inspired to experiment a little with the food. I came across a recipe for Swordfish Skewers with salsa verde. They were easy to make and I found the swordfish right here at Manteca Grocery Outlet. So convenient.

Turns out, I love Swordfish! (2lb $9.99 in the freezer dept)

swordfish skewers

Click the picture for the recipe from Food & Wine

blue fish

2011 Blue Fish Sweet Riesling $2.99

Elsewhere price $13.95

This beautiful blue bottle of Sweet Riesling from Germany was refreshing. Larry tasted peaches and nectarines and thought it was excellent. Terry said she really liked it, that it was clean and crisp tasting. Connie also enjoyed it, saying it was very summery. I definitely will be getting a case of this wine. Of course I enjoyed drinking it, but I plan to make a nice chandelier from the bottles to hang in the outdoor kitchen. Thermodynamics (from middle school science class) is my new best friend.

blue wine bottle     wine bottle chandelier

Like this one, but with blue

On-line review from Color: Soft gold with green reflections Bouquet: Seductive perfume of fresh apricot, peaches, and ripe pineapple Taste: Fruity sweetness with a full-bodied structure and refreshing acidity

 wine bottle torches

or this would be pretty cool too!


eco love riesling

2009 Eco Love Riesling $3.99

Elsewhere price $15.00

This sustainably grown Riesling is from the South Island of New Zealand and also comes in a really pretty bottle! We found this wine to be refreshingly crisp and fruity. Perfectly paired with the grilled Lemon Pepper Shrimp Kabobs as recommended by the on-line reviewer at below.

On-line review: But I was equally taken by their Riesling’s layers of fruit: peach skins and petrol on the nose to start, followed by a puckery citrus and green apple palate, then a gooseberry finish.

lemon pepper shrimp skewers 

Click the picture for the recipe from McCormick


washington hills syrah

2011 Washington Hills Syrah $5.99

Elsewhere price $11.99

You know I love me some Syrah! Terry commented that it is very smooth and Larry said Hoorah for the Syrah. Steve thought it was sweet for a Syrah. Connie noted that it is full bodied and she noticed a spiceiness. I asked Arvin how he liked it and he said, “Well, it’s gone”. I think that means he likes it. We all did. The whole bottle was gone. Lol.

On-line review from Lots of blueberries and blackberries. Very calm, slightly sweet but very delicious. I like this a lot!


 lady in red cabernet

2009 Lady in Red Cabernet Sauvignon $10.99

Elsewhere price $24.99

Arvin started us off on this Cab. He said it has a full noise and is sexy! Every other comment that was made was either inappropriate for this blog or I was completely distracted and didn’t write it down. The on-line review is spot on:

5 of 5 stars from Aromas of blueberry jam, cherry, red currant, blackberry and elderberry. These are balanced by tea, tobacco, cedar, spice and vanilla which develop in the glass and on your palate leading to a nice, lingering finish.

Share your Bargain Junque

I’m always looking for a bargain. That’s what Grocery Outlet is all about and that’s what I’m all about. The treasure hunt for a great deal is all part of a fun game that can be played alone or with others. I feed my family on bargains and I decorate my home with found treasures. I love to decorate and I love bargains!

My entire existence consists of one spontaneous obsession after concurrent with another. Like shiny objects that distract my attention way too easily. I guess the lack of forethought to recognize that a project will become amazingly-frustrating- to-the-point-where-I-wished-I’d-never-started-it is part of my personality disorder. It also includes, among other things, I-forget-how-old-I-am  and  I-don’t-have-to-leave-yet-there’s-plenty-of-time-to-get-there. I do not always love these things about me. I do love the idea of finished projects, but I want to hurry through the work part (i.e. painting walls) so I can get to the fun part (staging/decorating).

I’ve been hoarding art for the past couple of weeks. I thought it would be fun to have a gallery wall in the loft. Of course, the loft had to be painted first. I didn’t even consider the fact that I have come to hate painting walls before I got started. AND before I was even done – I wasn’t sure I liked the color :/ Repaint? Nope.

On to the fun part: Staging and decorating the room. Now, just for informational purposes, the term ‘found treasures’ is not equal to any old cheap junk. Found treasures are equal to one-of-a-kind pieces that are found at bargain prices = Junque! I like to stalk the clearance racks, thrift stores, craigslist and occasionally I even strike gold at curbside shopping. Last week I followed a Salvation Army truck through town and was rewarded with this:

mad men cabinet

Behind that $17 copper side table, that’s a 1962 record player/real to real/stereo cabinet that works! The same one that was in Don Draper’s office in the first season of Mad Men. I picked that up for $50, fresh off the truck.

And this little rolling portable bar?

portable bar

$15. Yeah, that happened. (Five bucks for the table runner from Target’s clearance rack)

mayan calendar

2′ diameter, 3″ thick Handmade Solid Wood Mayan Calendar (expired): $25

free headboard

Solid wood King-size headboard: Free on the side of the road

I’m sure this post will only add to my competition on craigslist, but that’s cool. We’re kinda like family now. Families share. I would love it if you shared some of your great Junque finds in the comments for me to see…  Here’s the gallery wall:

gallery wall

(sorry bout the pour lighting :-/ )

Inside the open closet (behind Don Draper’s stereo) in the loft still needs paint, but I finished the fun part so I moved on.  I was kinda hoping I could trick one of my kids into finishing the painting for me… I’ll let you know how that works out.

Here’s this week’s Bargain Wine picks:

aaaaaaaaaa new wines

Aja White Table Wine ~ Rocland Chardonnay ~ Ass Kisser Grenache ~ Rock Wall Zin

Aja wine

Aja White Table Wine $2.99

Elsewhere Price $8.99

We tried this white with spicy Asian food like the label suggested. Steve and Becky both thought it was better without the food. They thought it should be enjoyed during the summer by the pool. Kari disagreed, she said the food gave it texture. This was Kerri’s favorite of the night.

From the bottle: Aja (pronounced Asia) is all about the food. The 2010 vintage is a delicious Australian Pinot Gris blend specially created to perfectly match the spicy fragrant flavours of Asian food. With zesty, aromatic, luscious fruit flavours upfront, to balance the heat of chilli and other spices, and a crisp citrus finish to cleanse the palate.

Tasting notes: Colour: Pale green straw. Nose: Aromas of pineapple, passion fruit, musk and white peach. Palate: A medium bodied and zesty white wine with intense flavours of passion fruit and white peach. Natural fruit sugars give luscious lingering flavours of guava which are structured by zesty citrus acid giving a crisp elegant aftertaste.

The esteemed wine critic Winsor Dobbin wrote: “There’s plenty of appealing upfront fruit and some nice crisp juiciness on the finish that suggests this low-acid number will, indeed, partner well with a variety of Asian spices.”


Rocland chardonnay

2012 Petite Rocland Chardonnay $2.99

Elsewhere price $10.99

Larry thought this Chardonnay had a nice nose and Terry & Becky agreed, they said it was light and had a fruity aroma. Terry said it was on the sweeter side. Becky tasted oranges and peach. Steve and Larry both tasted pear. Kerri thought it would be good in a white sangria and Arvin liked it as well. We all agreed that it grows on you.

From the winemaker: Green & Gold highlighted colour with a vibrant sheen. An inviting fruit driven nose exhibiting white stone fruits and floral esters. Crisp citrus flavours married in with mouth watering peach and nectarine


ass kisser wine

2009 Royal Ass Kisser Grenache $2.99

Elsewhere $11.99

Well now, that’s a fun name! Terry commented that the nose is soft and the taste is soft. Soft like Arvin’s silk shirt from Hawaii. Scott and Joe liked it at the first taste, as did I. The second taste was even better, lol. I liked it with the dark chocolates and berries. This was Connie’s favorite.

On line review: This delicious Grenache is no joke, and our tasting panel was very impressed; this wine delivers great value.

Wine Spectator 88 points: Light and silky, bright on balance, this features lively raspberry and Earl Grey tea flavors that linger easily. Drink now.


Rock Wall wines

2012 Rock Wall Zinfandel $12.99

Elsewhere price $25.00

Last week we tried the Rock Wall Petite Sirah and loved it! Kerri thought this was a subtle Zin with a mild palate. She was also quoted as saying, ‘And I love me some Zin!’ Larry noted that it had a mild nose, Scott liked it and Joe said it was plumy. Scott, Terry, Larry and me all picked this as our favorite of the night. Joe Liked the wine, but really wanted more pizza.

Cellar Tracker 88.1 points: Decant for a hour. Upon opening, was pretty closed, vegetal and tight. After an hour, the wine drank smoother and the berry notes jumped out. Spicy with good tannins, ripe cherries, and good earth tones. Kind of a muted nose of black raspberry and dark currants. Also some hints of spice. In the mouth a decent balance with cherries ruling into a medium finish.

Cheers to blue teeth!

Planting flowers in the front yard makes me happy. Wait. I don’t mean the actual act of planting the flowers makes me happy. Because it does not. Not at all.

Maybe if I could effortlessly dig holes in fluffy dirt and plop the new plants in, but that is not how it works. My flower bed is full of tree roots. Big tree roots that grow right where my new flowering shrubs belong. Every year I try to plant in the same place, not remembering the roots are there. Then I usually give up and plant them somewhere else which makes the freakishly large flower bed look unfinished. This year I dug holes and cut right through any roots that got in my way. Take that tree roots! It’s a stupid looking tree anyway. If I accidentally killed it, no worries, I’ll plant an apple tree in it’s place next year 🙂

flower bed

(please excuse my thumb)

This year I also finally chose the proper plants. Evergreen, flowering and drought tolerant.

***fingers crossed***

that I won’t have to try to fill the whole giant flower bed anymore. Just the border. Which I’m okay with. I can handle border planting, that’s where all the nice fluffy dirt is.

Now, every day when I pull up the drive way, the flowers make me smile. It’s like a little glimpse of Spring. (Thanks for being there during my silly rant).

What else makes me happy? Wine.

I’ve learned that it only takes a small glass of wine to transition from stressed to happy. But, that rarely stops me…

Here’s this week’s wine picks:


Reynoso Sauv Blanc ~ Sonoma Landing Chard ~ Rockwall Sirah ~ Red Lie Zin



2009 Reynoso Sauvignon Blanc $6.99

Elsewhere price $12.99

Larry commented on the citrus/pear aroma being refreshing. Steve said it had a spicy finish, but he was eating spicy pasta snacks at the time :-/ Joe tasted peach; he said it was very light and not too strong.

On line review: The fruit character of this wine speaks of citrus with riper, tropical notes as well. In the mouth, the acidity has a softer profile than many Sauvignon and the fruit is freshly expressed.

on line review 2:

Suggested Setting Freshly-cooked lobsters   on the beach
Signature Scent Key Lime Blossom

She’s not shy in the least, an intensely flavored and layered Sauvignon Blanc that delivers tons of citrus and passion fruit with hints of tarragon and white pepper. Not quite as crisp or dry as some of her Sauv counterparts she’s still refreshing and pairs best with seafood. Next time you have sushi skip the sake and go Sauv instead.


Sonoma landing chard

2008 Sonoma Landing Chardonnay $5.99

Elsewhere price $12.99

Terry started us off on the Chardonnay, she thought it tasted clean and clear. Steve noticed a hint of apple. He said it was a cheerful wine. Becky really liked it especially the little twang at the end.

On line review: It was on sale for $8.70 (Regular Price: $12.99). Smooth, dry and fresh – loved it! Not agree with 88 pts. Five out of Five stars.

Winemakers notes: 88 PTS WILFRED WONG. Impressive and delicious, the juicy ’08 Sonoma Landing is a beautiful wine; fresh with finely ripened, core fruit flavors; dry yet easy in the finish.


rock wall sirah

2011 Rockwall Napa Petite Sirah $10.99

Elsewhere price $25.00

By far the winner of the night! Becky liked the fancy bottle and after tasting it said, ‘Wow, that’s good!’ She also noted that it was fruity and would go with anything. Joe said ‘Legs’O’Plenty’. Steve commented that he really liked this one and Larry & Terry agreed, saying it was very berry and really good. We all had seconds and we finished the bottle.

On line tasting notes from Williams-Sonoma: Rich mulberry and blue plum flavors form the core, surrounded by notes of spice, vanilla and seared meat. $35.00

From the Winemaker: Deep India ink in color, this beautiful Petite Sirah shows robust aromas of juicy ripe blackberry, fig, and pink cotton candy, followed by flavors of bright blueberry, Cajun spice, plum jam, white pepper and dark chocolate. Cheers to blue teeth!


Red lie zin

2011 Red Lie Zin Lodi Zinfandel $4.99

Elsewhere price $9.99

Joe noted the dry oakey aroma. He said it tasted tart and added, ‘I love that Zin’. Becky agreed that it was dry and noticed that it stayed on your tongue; she said this is a good dinner wine. Everyone else was still enjoying the Petite Sirah…

On line review on Vivino: Four out of Five stars