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No Picky Tongues Here

Answer = SALT!

Here on the DIY Backyard Farm we have access to some of the most fresh, tasty and healthy ingredients available. Growing our own provides us with something akin to having our own farmers market right outside the door of our home.

The benefits of growing your own produce are many. The topic and question posed with this post made me think of the various tastes and which one if any I could do without. Our produce is plenty sweet from the natural plant sugars, sometimes it is spicy too. One thing it is not is salty. In fact, we hardly use salt in our home at all. The ingredients we use are of such quality that little salt is required. They just taste so good eaten raw or simply prepared.

I would hate to think I would have to give up one of my senses of taste. However, salt would be the one if I had to choose.

Picky Tongues.

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Another reason to grow your own

Fried zucchini flowers


Do the French know best?


Risky Business…

What is more risky, buying an expensive wine from a well know, high-end label or buying a few inexpensive wines ($7-$15 range) from lesser known or larger quantity producers?

I recently found myself wondering this after a disappointment while tasting a $35 bottle of California red from a very well know and usually very good producer.  Sure this could have been an off bottle, but I did not detect any of the common characteristics of a corked or poorly stored/transported wine.  I think my experience was simply an example of a so-so wine being marketed at a high price because of name recognition.

Sure this is risky for the producer because their very name and reputation is at stake with each bottle.  Perhaps they are still willing to chance it in hopes consumers will convince themselves that the wine is good?

What about less expensive wines?  I love to scan the shelves for unfamiliar label or varietals in hopes of finding my next “house wine“.  For me this is exciting.  Almost like traveling to distant wine regions without leaving crummy NJ!

Of course, most of the time these wines will not transport your taste buds to that magical place that a Petrus or Quintessa will take you.  However, most of us can’t buy those wines anyway!

More times than not I am pleasantly surprised with what I find.  Years ago this was not the case.  Cheap wine usually meant bad wine.  In today’s market we are blessed with a highly competitive market with wines from many regions around the globe.  We also have new technologies like packaging (boxed wine & lighter bottles) that shave the costs even more.

So, what is more risky?  Do you personally go with one big named, high-priced “trophy” wine in hopes of experiencing flavorful bliss?  Perhaps you like to spread the risk across a broad selection of less expensive wines?  Tell me, I want to know!


Does bottle price dictate quality?

My answer is…sometimes.  It is a much more complex question than meets the eye. There are many high quality, balanced, correctly produced wines selling for $10 or less. However, there are also some real disasters sitting on wine store shelves. They lay there waiting for some poor, unsuspecting value hunter to pick them up, read the “story” on the back label, and decide to “give it a try”.
Interestingly, I have found the same story applies to the other end of the wine price spectrum.  I have bad memories of being disappointed after spending $30, $40, $50, or even more on a bottle.  Some of these wines were total bombs and others suffered because I compared their quality and character to wines in the same price category.  A few even disappointed vs. the $10 “house wines” I stock in my own cellar.

In my opinion, wines at the higher price points are a chance to taste the heart & soul of the farmers who grew the grapes and the vintners who crafted the wine.  These wines often have layers of complexity that can take you far beyond the mass-produced wines found in the sub $10 category.  So, when you go out and purchase that expensive bottle, just hope their hearts were in the right place when they were working.

In conclusion, start a list of all your go-to value wines.  It pays to stock up on these.  Plus, they often vary little from vintage to vintage because the producers are seeking a uniform flavor profile.  Just be sure to keep your palate entertained with more complex wines at high price points.  No need to break the bank.  Try some dry creek zins or some Washington State Syrah in the $20-$30 range.  Most of all have fun and drink responsibly.


The Best Things In Wine Are Free

Yes, the best things in life are often free.  The smiles of our children or loved ones, warm summer evenings, and the beach (except in NJ where it is not free until after 5PM).

Even wine offers a couple of freebies we should all know about. 

With that, I wanted to talk more about wine country travel, a subject so near and dear to my heart.  For me it is more than a small passion.  I actually have trouble imaging going to places that do not include a stop or two at local wineries.  I love to meet the people behind the labels.  It is such fun to hear their stories and taste the fruits of their hard labor.

More specifically, many wineries offer their visitors free tastings.  Often times, these tastings are even accompanied by goodies like chocolate, small snacks, bread, etc.  Yes, they give it all to you, the visitor for free.

Does that sound too good to be true?  Well, it is not…at least for you.  However, there is something you should keep in mind.  Many of the wineries that offer these free experiences are owned by small producers and not major corporations.  In addition, these small producers rely on the sales of other nonwine items to help make ends meet.

In fact, my wife and I have lots of small craft items and other cool stuff we picked up in our wine country travels.  We have also brought back plenty of gifts so our family and friends can experience some of what we have.

So, the next time you stop for a free taste be sure to keep all this in mind.  No one will stop you or look at you the wrong way if you do not buy something, but it is a nice gesture if you do.  Plus, you don’t need to feel obligated to buy the wine.  There are plenty of other things you can buy from one of these wineries.  After all, it is the polite thing to do. 

PS – No offense to all of the corporate owned wineries.  There are many great ones out there and some even offer their own free tastings!


Everyone wants to be a wine maker!

So you’ve got some tasting under your belt, you’ve toured Napa, Sonoma, and maybe even a Euro region or two.  Even your home has taken on a wine country feel.  I’m willing to bet at some point you have thought to yourself or talked with your friends and loved ones about how nice it would be to make your own wine, live the lifestyle, and enjoy la vita dolce (the sweet life).

Its only natural to have these feelings.  In fact, it is inside the souls and genetics of many of us.  Think about it, most if not all of our ancestors, regardless of nationality, made wine.  They made it to enjoy, to share, and most of all to help celebrate their lives and the bounty of their harvests.

Now, in our commercialized societies we have little interaction with our agrarian roots.  I think this is where the desire to make wine starts to come from.  We drink the wine and can often taste the “place” it came from.  We can taste the hard work that went into turning mother nature’s efforts into the finished product.  Our own desires to accomplish something similar start to burn bright.

On a daily basis we stay ultra busy.  We tweet, text, email, and more.  We rarely get to stop and smell the roses.  Many times we can reflect on a day and wonder what if anything was truly accomplished or created???  With wine and other agricultural products we are at the mercy of nature.  We must wait for the grapes to grow, for the wine to age, and for the open bottle to “breathe”.  We need this waiting.  It reminds us to slow down, to savor, and to strive to create something.

Why not give wine making a try?  You can get a feel for it in almost any location these days.  Many wine schools have opened up to help quench the desires of aspiring wine markers.

Of course, a wine school will often only give you a small taste (no pun intended), but not the full experience.  They usually source the grapes, crush the grapes, do the lab work, and more.  Your job is to watch, participate a bit in various parts of the process, and design your label.

If you are like me then you will want more.  Next stop would be a home wine making center.  Walk in a bit before the season (early August) and talk with the people there.  They can explain the process and the equipment you’ll need to get started.  Don’t buy it all in the first vintage though!  Start out small, but leave yourself room to grow.  That means not investing in the crusher/destemmer, the press, and expensive barrels.  Instead, focus on the basics like glass demijons or carboys (to age/store), a hand corker, and some inexpensive hoses to siphon with.  You’ll also want a good funnel, a 6 gallon bucket, and various basic wine making chemicals and cleaners.  Oh and start saving your empty wine bottles!

As each vintage passes you can add more equipment, start aging in barrels, and talking all your friends into coming over to help during crush and bottling.  Home wine making becomes a lifestyle in itself and offers many reasons to get together with others to celebrate your own bounty.

If you still can’t get enough then I suggest hooking up with a small, family run winery and offer to lend a helping hand.  In the beginning you will probably only be invited to the most labor intensive portions of the wine making process.  Think long, hot days harvesting bunch after bunch of grapes, hosing down equipment, or climbing inside huge tanks to scoop out the grape skins after primary fermentation.  It is hard work, yet deeply satisfying to my soul and probably to many others as well.

I’ve done all of the above and must say it is a great way to see if you really enjoy the wine making lifestyle or just want to slap your name on a bottle.  There is nothing wrong with the later by the way.  Whatever floats your boat, just have fun!