Tree Decoration – Adding the Baubles

I mentioned in my last post, we’ve taken a stepped approach to our tree decoration this year.  Not because that’s what we wanted, but because our schedules were so crazy this year we weren’t able to do otherwise.

The first two steps were 1) buying and setting the tree in it’s stand (centering, leveling, etc.); 2) applying strands of lights and the tree topper.  Having managed to put the lights on successfully (in our opinion, anyway), the third step was the placement of the individual decorations a few days later.

Here, my sweetie and I have a very different view of what success looks like.  I have a tendency to favor a purposeful placement of baubles closer to the trunk or “inside” as well as near the end of branches.  This, of course, comes to me from my parents’ training and perhaps suits my temperament as well.  My honey, on the other hand, favors the organic approach with placement of decorations in a more random, serendipitous way.  You might call that a “natural” look.  I suppose our viewpoints on tree decoration prove that we do, in fact, complement each other.  I believe that’s true!  Thus, (complementary or not) it is absolutely necessary that we both have a nice large block of time available together for the task.  That normally means our tree gets decorated on a weekend.

To accompany stage three of our tree decorating, we chose to pop the cork on a California Meritage.

Oenophilogical_RoustaboutMeritage2016Winemaker: Roustabout
Wine: Meritage
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2016
Appellation: Paso Robles, CA
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: This Meritage consisted of 66% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec.  It’s color was a pretty, deep red.  It’s nose contained dark berry scents, pine and a touch of earth.  Medium-bodied with good acidity, the Roustabout had 13.9% alcohol.  Flavors included a core of plum with tea leaf, spices, and woody tannins.  I thought it was pleasant and would be a good pairing with a beef dish.  At this price, that could be anything from a burger to Beef Stroganoff.


Tree with Lights no Baubles


Roustabout Meritage 2013

Here is another of those red wines I had recently.  It was an interesting blend – a Meritage – using grape varieties common in red blends from the Bordeaux region in France.  In fact, Meritage is a name invented by American wine growers as a way of recognizing their efforts to make New World wines in the Bordeaux tradition.  According to, “A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère.  If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage.”  This particular selection was made from 49% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Winemaker: Roustabout
Wine: Meritage
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Paso Robles, California
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this Roustabout was a very dark red with a nose of dusty berries and turpentine.  Acidity was quite bright, tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.8%.  Flavors were dark but not heavy – dark berries, cedar, pepper, a touch of sweet cola and a rubber not near the finish.  I liked it, especially given the price.  Good for sipping or serving with a casual meat dish.  I’ll definitely be headed back to the store for more.  In fact, I’m in search of a wine to serve for a family style birthday celebration at a BYOB Italian restaurant.  It’s a candidate for sure.

Hayman and Hill Meritage 2009

I believe that part of the “art” of good wine-making is finding the right balance which will create an interesting yet enjoyable experience for those who drink the resulting brew.  There are so many variables, I’m glad I’m not tasked with the job!   As a wine enthusiast, I liken it in my own mind to the balance necessary in making a song fun to listen to.  Of course, you have to start with good material.  But what instruments are chosen to bring it to life and how much of each instrument is highlighted in the final mix can make a big difference in the way a song is perceived.

Take, for instance, the difference between these two versions of the same pop tune —

Now don’t get excited about full-blown studio production versus at-home solo efforts.  I know, already!  Here’s the deal: I can appreciate both, but I definitely have a preference.  I believe it’s similar with wines – most especially blended wines. Although, admittedly, the winemaker has somewhat less control than the studio engineer. Which brings me to this Meritage.

Winemaker: Hayman & Hill
Wine: Meritage
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2009
Appellation: Monterey County, California
Price: $12.99

Photo credit corkbin.comNotes: This red is a blend of 48% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. It was a dark burgundy in the glass. On the nose I got a lot of musty earthiness with some dark berry and mocha notes. On the palate I found some very dark berry (black currant), plenty of woodiness, heaps of barnyard, and some little hints of mocha here and there. Light tannins brought a bit of eucalyptus to the finish. With oxidation, the wood receded some to the benefit of a tad more dark berry. But the barnyard and woodiness remained by-in-large the primary takeaway from my experience with this wine. Alcohol is at 13.5%.

It reminded me of another wine I tried several years ago. I had the opportunity to go on a private tour of a boutique California winery. (Colleagues of mine arranged it. I’ve got no juice. lol) Anyway, our group of work colleagues were treated to a taste of a very young, not-ready-for-public-consumption Cabernet Franc. It was explained that they would use it in a few years to blend into the Cabernet Sauvignon, adding some complexity – especially to the bouquet. The scents and the flavors of that immature Cabernet Franc were crazy overwhelming. And THAT is how I felt about this Meritage from Hayman & Hill. You may disagree. That’s OK. Maybe I had a bad day on this one, but …

Adding fuel to my fire, I recently had another Meritage – the 2009 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound from South Africa. In this case the blend was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Alcohol at 13.7%. Same grape varietals; different mix and grape sources; very different experiences. The Faithful Hound was settled with plenty of ripe fruit, vanilla and spice. It also had some earthiness, but it was more an underlying foundation over which sat the fruit and spices. Tannins were very mild, so the Mulderbosch is a definite “drink now” selection in my book.  The Hayman & Hill, on the other hand, I feel needs another year or two in the cellar to see if it will even out a bit. Tannins aren’t going to support long years in the bottle, I think. But for me, this is a “hold” selection.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.