Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wine Reviews for Chozas Carrascal Winery

The Utiel-Requena region of Spain has been producing wine for over 2,700 years. It is here that the Chozas Carrascal Estate is located, in the Valencia region, in an area known for its very long, cold winters and short, dry summers; the perfect elements needed for growing Macabeo, Bobal and Tempranillo grapes.

Chozas Carrascal began when Julián López and his wife María José Peidro purchased land back in the 1990s with a vision of growing a vineyard and creating a winery. The vineyard was planted with 11 varieties of grapes; Bobal is the main grape but the Lopez’s also branched out into other varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; grapes not usually grown here. Their vineyard was also one of the first in the area to cultivate grape vines on trellises.

The Lopez family then traveled around Spain and France learning everything they could about how to craft wine. In 2006, the couple, along with their son and daughter, began making wine with the goal of producing exceptional single-estate vinos blended in the “coupage” tradition. This Mediterranean tradition allows for the blending of the best of the different varieties in order to craft a wine with its own personality.

The family’s passion for technique, and their ability to craft these innovative blends, has produced some bold, complex and interesting wines that are eco-friendly.

Although fairly young, Chozas Carrascal received the prestigious “Vino de Pago” classification in 2012. It is only the second winery in the region to do so.

2011 Las 2 Ces d’Tinto Barrica
This wine is crafted and blended from organic grapes made up of Bobal, Tempranillo and Syrah. The native Bobal is the most planted grape in the Utiel-Requena region and makes up about 80% of the production. Tempranillo is the second most planted grape here.
Each wine is fermented separately in concrete tanks before being transferred to two or three-year-old French Oak barrels. It's then aged for another five months before bottling. The coupage, or blending, occurs just before bottling.

With the aromas of berry and cedar, the intense color of this young wine, along with its high tannins, lead to a complex vino with an earthy taste. This results in a smooth dinner wine that can be served with beef, pork and stronger flavored fish like tuna and salmon.  88 points –$12.00 U.S.

2012 Las 2 Ces d’Blanco
Crafted from Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeo, these grapes are harvested early in the morning when the temperatures are cool. The grapes then go through 24 hours of cold-skin maceration before being placed in a temperature-controlled fermentation.

The straw colored vino has bright, tropical fruity aromas followed by the fresh flavors of lemon and grapefruit with a hint of vanilla, and a nice long-lasting finish. This crisp, light wine goes with fish and seafood, pasta, and chicken.
88 points - $12 U.S.

2009 Las Ocho 8
A rare blended wine that is crafted from eight different grapes: Bobal, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Bobal Familiar, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This blend is considered rare because these grapes are not usually combined in this manner, but all are grown on the Chozas Carrascal Estate. Each grape is fermented separately in concrete tanks. Seventy-five percent of the wine is then aged in French Oak barrels for 14 months while the other 25% is left in the concrete tanks. Before bottling, the final coupage, or blending, is done and the wine ages another 12 months in the bottle.

The Las Ocho has an intense peppery yet berry nose. The wine is full bodied with herbaceous, earthy flavors. Mature tannins make a powerful presentation, which lends this wine to compliment an array of hearty dining options.   88 points - $20 U.S.

The winery offers wine tastings seven days a week. You can also take a tour of the vineyards, fermentation and barrel cellars before enjoying a tasting at the bar. Having experienced the wines, this is definitely one place I will visit next time I’m in Spain.
~ Joy

Chozas Carrascal
San Antonio Requena VALENCIA
T. 963 410 395
Web site:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Painting with Wine (For Real)

Wine can be used for more than serving with dinner, or helping make a bad day fade away … There are several artists in the world who paint with wine.

Red wine makes a great watercolor paint, just as coffee and tea do, but reducing the wine before using keeps the colors darker. The best method is to pour half a bottle in a pan and heat on medium-low for 10-15 minutes. Do not reduce too much or it will burn. (Of course, that might be an interesting color …)

Painting with wine is basically the same as using real watercolor paints. Remember, the wine needs time to dry. If you get your hand into wet wine paint, you could make a mess of your canvas.

You can vary the depth of the colors by using the different colored red wines. For example, using a Cabernet, Merlot or Malbec will give a more deep purplish-red color. For a red-orange hue try Sangiovese or Tempranillo.

Painting by Nelva Richardson
There are several well-known artists who paint with wine. Nelva B. Richardson started as a medical illustrator but while vacationing in Italy, she created thank-you cards and painted them with wine. Today, Richardson does scenic wine paintings and wine portraits, listing the name of the wine and the vintage on each. For more, visit her site Painting With Wine.

The Dalai Lama by Philippe Dufrenoy
Another wine painting artist is Philippe Dufrenoy. He worked as an engineer for years but discovered a passion for painting.  It all began when he splashed some of his red wine across a paper tablecloth and liked the effect. Dufrenoy paints portraits with wine. He has said, ”Each bottle expresses the flavor of the land and the personality of the person who make it.” His site is Philippe Dufrenoy: The Man Who Paints with Wine.

Painting by Christina LoCascio
Christina LoCascio began working in the wine industry in 2002. Today, she uses wine as her palette for painting. LoCascio paints grapes, vineyards and wine bottles along with figuratives, landscapes and abstracts. Her sites is Wine Art.

So the next time you pour a glass of wine, think about how that vino would look on canvas – it could make for an interesting hobby, and a crafty use of wine.

~ Joy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Celebrate Wine Tourism Day

Get ready – the third annual Wine Tourism Day will be held this Saturday, November 7, 2014 in North America!

Wine tourism is growing in this country as casual wine lovers and wine enthusiasts visit regional and state wineries and share their finds with friends on social media. There are hundreds of great wineries out there but most of us will never know about them because their wines will never reach distribution. This is one way to get the word out.

There are over 7,500 wineries in the U.S, Canada and Mexico with 205 appellations in the United States along with 40 in Mexico and 38 in Canada. Winery visiting opportunities are endless for the casual oenophile. And sharing that information on Facebook and Twitter will help make more people aware of these little known wine regions and what they offer.

Events are planned at wineries, restaurants, hotels and other wine businesses throughout North America. Many wineries and wine shops will hold special tastings to encourage customers to come out and celebrate. If you can't make it to a winery this weekend, plan a dinner later in the month and have everyone bring a favorite bottle of a regional wine they've purchased. Share stories of your visit, and enjoy!

Stay up-to-date on the latest about Wine Tourism Day with news from Twitter and

And this Saturday, pop the cork on a local wine to celebrate the day in the best possible way.

~ Joy

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October’s Haunted Establishments with “Spirits” Series

Habits Café – Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s October and all this month we've been exploring haunted drinking establishments - restaurants, taverns, wineries, any place that serves spirits … and has “spirits.”  

Let’s hit the road one more time and discover who or what it is that makes these places so dark and brooding…

Habits Café has been a part of the Oakley community for 35 years. Founded in 1980, this neighborhood bar and grill, located on the eastern side of Cincinnati, offers a quaint atmosphere in which to enjoy outstanding food and after-work drinks. But not all is what it seems at this eclectic eatery.

Long before it was Habits Café, this building was home to a neighborhood bar. In one version of the story, the tavern owner was a notorious person who had spent time in jail. Back out on the street, he quickly returned to his criminal ways of dealing in hot merchandise. A bent cop discovered his secret and the two went into operation together. The cop would keep attention diverted from the bar and the owner would cut him in for a part of the take.

The ruse seemed to be working well until someone became too greedy. One night, the owner lured the cop into the basement of the building and shot him to death. 

It was rumored that the bar owner was gunned down not long afterwards in the alley by the café. No one knew the exact details of the shooting and without some tips; the police had nothing to go on ...

In another version of the story - one night, a patron had too much to drink and became belligerent when the management stopped service. The police were called, but the man refused to leave. When the officer arrived, the intoxicated patron was in the basement where he grabbed a shotgun and struck the policeman in the head. The officer died at the scene. The customer was later arrested.
While it is known that a policeman was killed in the basement of the building, the exact details have become sketchy over time. Whisperings, cold spots and the feeling of being watched are prevalent downstairs, though.

Today, customers report that phone and camera batteries drain quickly. Staff members have witnessed the lights being unexplainedly turned on and off, and have seen items thrown through the air by no visible presence.

If you’re in the Queen City for Halloween this year, dinner at Habits Café may be just the thing for a spooktacular evening out.

~ Joy

3036 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH
(513) 631-8367
Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October’s Haunted Establishments with “Spirits” Series

The Winery at La Grange – Haymarket, Virginia

It’s October and all this month we’ll be exploring haunted drinking establishments - restaurants, taverns, wineries, any place that serves spirits … and has “spirits.” 

Let’s hit the road and discover who or what it is that makes these places so dark and brooding…

Housed in an 18th Century restored manor house, The Winery at La Grange offers elegant Virginia wines crafted in the European style. The winery opened in 2006 and has garnered several awards for its Virginia wines.

The Winery at La Grange offers 12 to 15 wines crafted from grapes grown in the estate’s eight-acre vineyard. Red wines include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Benoni’s Red. The list of whites contain a Chardonnay, Cuvee Blanc, Vidal and Viognier.

 One wine, General’s Battlefield Red, is aged in oak barrels that have been made from trees cut from the Manassas Battlefield.

But besides wine, history (and hauntings) are also prevalent in this three-story hilltop mansion. The manor was built in 1790 and maintains more than a few ghosts. Staff and customers have witnessed all of the bottles on the mantle pop their corks at the same time.

Customers discuss their strange encounters with others while sipping wine at the bar – especially during the month of October. One of the regular sightings is that of former owner, Benoni E. Harrison. Harrison purchased the manor and estate in 1827 and resided here until his death in 1869. He can still be seen today, wandering the property, checking to make sure all is in order.

In honor of Mr. Harrison, the stone walled cellar, where guests can enjoy a glass of wine in an intimate setting, has been named Benoni’s Lounge.

Another inhabitant of the house is a young girl who is seen only in an upstairs bedroom.

During renovations in 2006, visitors heard piano music drifting on the evening breeze. When they went to investigate, they discovered that there was no one in the house, and no piano any where to be found. Although Benoni Harrison’s will shows that he left his "piano in the parlor" to his nephew in 1869.

Plan a trip to the Winery at La Grange and sample some wine on the patio, or in Benoni’s Lounge. Maybe you’ll be soothed by distant piano music as you catch a glimpse of Benoni making his rounds on his beloved estate.

~ Joy

4970 Antioch Road
Haymarket, VA
(703) 753-9360

Monday – Thursday Noon -6 p.m.
Friday – Saturday Noon – 8 p.m.
Sunday Noon – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October’s Haunted Establishments with “Spirits” Series

The Tonic Room – Chicago, Illinois

It’s October and all this month we’ll be exploring haunted drinking establishments - restaurants, taverns, wineries; any place that serves spirits … and has “spirits.” 

Let’s hit the road and discover who or what it is that makes these places so dark and brooding…

First stop this year is considered one of the Top 10 Haunted Bars in Illinois. (It comes in at #4.) The Tonic Room in Lincoln Park, Illinois was built in 1894 and has had a long and sordid history.

The building was used as a brothel for years. Then, in the 1920s, the Lincoln Park neighborhood became rife with gangs and crime. The building became a speakeasy during Prohibition and was a favorite hang out for member of the Irish North Side Gang; the same gang that had six of its members gunned down in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Nearby, stands the Biograph Theatre where gangster John Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI in 1934. Today there remains a tunnel, now closed off, that runs under North Halsted Street that gang members used as a quick escape route through the city in the 1920s and 30s.

When the gangsters left the building in the 1930s, the Chicago chapter of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical society dedicated to spiritual, psychic and occult practices, took up residence there. The Windy City has been home to the group for almost a century and the Tonic Room may still reverberate from some of the group’s rumored events including a ritual sacrifice that was said to have taken place in the basement during that time.

Frederic De'Arechanga
In the 1969 and the early ‘70s, the building was home to the occult shop, El-Sabarum, operated by Frederic De’Arechanga who claimed he was a mystic. While he sold herbs and candles upstairs, De’ Arechanga used the basement as a pagan temple for his newly founded Sabaean religious order, Temple of the Moon. The Sabean religion he created was based on his interpretation of the practices of Egyptian Mythology, Babylonian, and Sumarian myth along with ancient African theologies. Some said the Sabaean also practiced sacrifices during their rituals. De’Arechanga changed his name to Odun and vacated the building in 1974.  

Since the late 1990s, there have been reports of strange apparitions flitting through the building's basement, and ghostly fogs in the upstairs bar area. Some say this may link back to the rituals enacted there. During renovations on the building, a sacrificial dagger was discovered hidden in the basement walls along with the remains of a pentagram found painted on the floor.

Workers also uncovered Egyptian iconography painted on the basement ceiling. Whispering and chanting can still be heard at odd hours in the basement, and one former worker reported being pinned down on the basement floor by “something” he couldn’t see.

The Tonic Room
Today, the Tonic Room is a great venue for live music in the city, and if you’re interested in seeing if the place still gives off a mysterious vibe, check out the web page for a current listing of bands and events. Regardless of the spook factor, you’re sure to have an out-of-this-world evening listening to live music in the Windy City.

~ Joy

2447 N. Halsted Avenue
Chicago, IL
(773) 248-8400