Tuesday, June 30, 2009

About Wine: the making of wine

Once again, I bring my edition of About Wine, this time we learn how the wine is made. Very interesting stuff. If you're new here you may want to start this journey by reading the first About Wine article and follow that with About Wine: Wine Tasting. Visit Neil (who recently visited Hong Kong) at On The Grape Vine to learn more about the Australian region and wine.

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Before we go any further on our wine journey, it might be just as well to summarise, in a very simplified way, how various types of wine are made.

So let’s just concentrate first on white, red, rose and sparkling.

It should be mentioned at the start that most grape juice is white ie. clear. For instance Pinot Noir, a red grape is used in the production of sparkling wine eg. Champagne. It is the skins that give red wine its colour and most of its tannin.

1a. Dry White Wine Production.

  • Destem and crush grapes.
  • Drain the juice off the skins and press remaining juice from the skins and return it to the free run juice.
  • Add a wine yeast to the juice to begin fermentation where the sugar in the juice is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The higher the sugar content of the juice, the higher the alcohol content of the wine.
  • Drain wine off the fermentation lees, which are mainly a sediment of dead yeast cells and grape solids, and let all the remaining solids settle out over time.
  • Drain the clear wine off any residue. This is called racking and may need to be done a few times.
  • Bottle.

For those wanting more details (and pictures) about white wine making in very basic form in my micro winery check out: http://onthegrapevine.blogspot.com/2008/02/vintage-2008-begins.html

1b. Sweet & Semi White Wine Production.

We know that fermentation converts sugar in grape juice into alcohol. In dry white wine that sugar is virtually all used up by the yeast and the wine is considered dry.

If the fermentation process is stopped before the sugar is used up then sugar obviously remains and the wine is considered sweet. White wine with a residual sugar content of 10-30g/L is semi sweet, 30-100g/L (or more), sweet. (Sorry I don’t know the imperial measurement for that unit!)

Another method of production is to ferment the white wine to complete dryness and then add concentrated grape juice to the desired sugar level.

2. Red Wine Production.

  • Destem and crush grapes.
  • Ferment the juice and skins together.
  • Drain the wine from the skins which are then pressed. Add the pressings back into the wine.
  • Drain wine off the fermentation lees and transfer to oak barrels for clarification and “oaking”.
  • Drain clear wine off any residue.
  • Bottle.

For those wanting more details (and pictures) about red wine making in basic form in my micro winery check out: http://onthegrapevine.blogspot.com/2007/04/vintage-2007.html and


3. Rose’ Production.

  • Initially process as a red wine but only let the wine ferment on the skins until desired colour is achieved ie. from a few hours to a few days.
  • Then process it like white wine.

4. Sparkling Wine Production.

  • Select a single wine or blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier etc.) that has been specifically made for sparkling wine production. Usually it is white but can be pink. This is called the base wine.
  1. For a really cheap sparkling:
  • Bubble carbon dioxide through the base wine in a refrigerated pressure tank.
  • Filter.
  • Bottle.
  1. for a little more upmarket sparkling:
  • Place base white wine in a refrigerated pressure tank, add sugar and yeast. The yeast ferments the sweetened wine. The carbon dioxide evolved from this secondary fermentation is absorbed by the cold wine.
  • Filter.
  • Bottle.

This is called the Charmat Process.

  1. For an even more upmarket sparkling:
  • Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine in a bottle
  • After secondary fermentation occurs in the sealed bottle, the now sparkling wine is transferred under pressure to a tank.
  • Filter
  • Bottle (in a different bottle).

This is called the Transfer Process.

  1. The traditional and best (and most expensive) way of making a sparkling wine eg. Champagne:
  • Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine in the bottle it will be eventually sold in.
  • Secondary fermentation occurs in the sealed bottle.
  • After some time, the bottle is manually turned in a rack twice daily and gradually brought to the upright position (neck down). The lees from the fermentation process eventually settle in the neck of the bottle leaving the remaining wine clear. This is called remuage (riddling) and takes about 3 weeks.
  • To remove this deposit, the neck of the bottle is immersed in a freezing solution which freezes the lees plug into a solid mass. The seal is removed and the internal pressure in the bottle expels the plug. This is called disgorgement
  • The bottle is then topped up with some of the same wine and a sugar/wine solution. This is called dosage or liqueuring.
  • Bottle is corked and wired.

This process is called Methode Champenoise or Methode Traditionnelle (traditional method).

It should be pointed out here that only sparkling wine made in the Champagne district of France can be legally called Champagne and only it can be made by Methode Champenoise.

Hence we have kept to the generic term ‘sparkling wine’, the best quality of which is made by the traditional method. But it’s all the same thing, really.

So there you have it. We have left a few other wine types out like botrytis white wines eg. Sauterne and the fortifieds like Sherry and Port so if there is any interest in these, let me know.

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Thank You Neil for an informative post!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm running our of steam...

Today, Sunday, I woke up with every intention to attend the 8:30 am service at our chapel - of course it was only 2 am when I woke up and 6:30 am when I finally fell asleep again. It has been quite the week and I've been stretching myself too thin. As I sit here writing I realize that next week is not exactly going to be easier so I must, must, must write down what I need to do or I will have a break down. I enrolled my toddler in a 3 day pre-school program and my 7 yo will go to all day camp 3 days a week at the gym. This way I will have time to get and keep the house ready for showing.

This past week I've gone to work, trained a few people, driven children to their destination, helped decorate for Vacation Bible School and yesterday I hosted a birthday party for my little peanut- she's now 7--Wow! I had 8 kids over for an afternoon of water fun in the back yard. Boys and girls playing together, sometimes nicely and others...well, kids play is always unpredictable. But it was obvious to me they were having a great time getting themselves wet. Then it was time for me to spray them and it was war time as they each tried to get me wet.

Thank God parties have a limited time because I would go absolutely nuts with that many kids under the age of 9 competing for water balloons, my attention, the sprinkler, slip and slide and the hose. Whew!! My daughter was in heaven and I was ready for a nap which came shortly after the kids went home. By Saturday evening I was completely exhausted. I tried to watch "Horton Hears a Who" with the kids and passed out on the floor.

Now I'm trying to re-energize myself for next week. Vacation Bible School every morning, getting the house ready for the market when I get home - have to finish a few details before showing time begins. I WILL go to the gym every morning or I will lose my mind.

I will be back with some of the following updates:

* Water play at the Birthday Party
* Cinnabon Clone Cinnamon Bun Recipe
* About Wine
* The Lee Hall Depot has been moved
* Blue Monday and Outdoor Wednesday
* Summer Reading - small steps and making progress

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday - the sun and clouds

Susan, our host for Outdoor Wednesday has an awesome list of participants. Go see, you never know what beauty you might find in someone else's outdoor.

I have so much to share that I'm finding it difficult to pick any one topic so I will have to come back to give you more of my world in a later post. For now, enjoy these sky pictures. I just love the view of the sun hiding behind the clouds. This was taken at a park near home where my daughter was playing field hockey.

Enjoy and visit Susan to see more outdoor stuff!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

About Wine: Wine Tasting

Photo by: smcgee

This is such fun information particularly if you are interested in wine and all the little details about wine. My friends often ask me what type of wine I like and my usual response is "the type that tastes good." What? isn't that enough? Nope..apparently its kind of cool to know a little about all those different flavors, heat, wet or dry, etc.

So here's a nother great post from Neil at On the Grapevine.

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There is a lot written about wine tasting. A lot of it can be pretentious and over the top.

So let’s try to stick to basics here and keep it simple…..and fun.

Wine tasting involves three senses.

  1. Sight.
  2. Smell.
  3. Taste and mouth feel.

So pour yourself a glass (well, not a full glass, around 30mL or 1 oz is best) of your favourite wine and follow these steps:

  • Tilt the glass slightly and check its clarity. It should be clear, not hazy.
  • Look at the colour against a white background. Note the shade (hue) and depth (intensity) of colour. A young white wine can be anything from water white through green to straw yellow. They darken towards orange/brown as they age. Purple can mean a young red wine. Brick red can mean oldish. Brown can mean really old (and possibly off!). You may have to tilt the glass and look at the rim of the wine to get the best idea of its colour. And the colours should be bright, not dull.
  • Swirl the wine around the glass and look at the liquid remaining on the sides of the glass as it slides back down. These are called the “legs” and indicates the viscosity of the wine which is related to the alcohol content. The more legs the higher the alcohol content.

So far so good. You now have an idea about the wine’s age and condition.

Not too hard so far.

  • Swirl the wine around the glass and sniff the wine. Put your nose right into the glass. Not too many sniffs however, a couple will do.
  • Think about what you are smelling. Any off smells? Sulphur? Vinegar? Mould? Nail polish remover? Wet hessian (burlap) bags? None of those, I hope! Now you know the wine is “clean” (or otherwise).
  • A couple more sniffs. What do you smell? Fruit? If so what sort? Flowers ? If so what type? Berries? Toast? Smoke? Cigars? These are the aromas of the wine. There are many more descriptors and it’s up to you to decide what they are. No one else can smell what you are smelling. Aromas fall into three categories. Primary fruit characters (that which the grape imparts to the wine and each variety tends to have a more or less distinct aroma eg. Riesling = citrus), developed fruit characters (what happens to the primary fruit characters on ageing eg. Riesling = toast and honey) and winemaking inputs (the result of what the winemaker has done to the wine during production eg. oak maturation). Experience will eventually allow you to differentiate. Don’t try and recognise everything now.
  • So what do you think? Were the aromas intense, medium or light? Did one smell dominate or was the over all impression one of harmony? Now you have an idea of the flavours to follow.

This is not as difficult as you thought, is it?

OK, here comes the best part.

  • Take a small sip (around 10mL) and move it around the mouth for about 10 seconds. Think about the flavours and the feel of the wine in the mouth. Then spit it out, or much better, swallow it. (When you are tasting 200 wines a day say, as a wine judge, swallowing would have you on the floor by lunch time hence the spit alternative).
  • You may have heard some experienced wine tasters making peculiar noises at this stage. They are sucking air into their mouths to help the wine release its volatile components which enhances the wine’s flavour. Absolutely no necessity for you to do this.
  • The taste components will be sweet, acid and possibly bitter along with flavours that have the same descriptors as the aromas. The wine should have a good balance of sweetness and acidity (one should not dominate the other) and hopefully no bitterness. Flavours can again be described as intense, medium or light. You should notice a change in these components the longer you hold the wine in your mouth. And the more diverse the flavours, the more “complex” the wine is considered to be.
  • After swallowing, the taste may linger for varying times at varying intensities or in some cases, not at all. This is known as “length”. Longer is better.

Another perceived taste is that dry, puckering of the mouth associated with tannins in red wine. These come from the grape skins as well as the oak during storage. This is really not a taste but a textural sensation ie. mouth feel. Tannins can be described as soft, silky, grainy. They should never dominate a wine.

Other textural features (and just not limited to red wines) include creaminess, viscosity, the “weight” of the wine in the mouth, “heat” where high alcohol content produces a warm feeling at the back of the mouth after swallowing.

So now you have an overall impression of the wine.

In time you will learn to look for:

  • Any wine faults
  • Varietal nose and flavour
  • Flavour and component balance
  • Richness and fullness
  • Complexity
  • Pleasant mouth feel
  • Length and finish

Some may think this is all too much trouble and are happy just to enjoy wine as a drink. Nothing wrong with that.

But if you are interested in knowing more about wine, all this will help you understand what you like or dislike about the various wines varieties and styles you try. And hopefully this will encourage you to look for new experiences in the world of wine. It’s really a never ending adventure out there.

Visit Neil to learn more about wine and about his homeland, Australia.

OW! A Birthday Bouquet

Today is outdoor wednesday and I have to say, it is a very special day to me. Please visit Susan, our host, at A Southern Day Dreamer, for more outdoor stuff.

Now back to today being special-- It's my birthday--yay! I'm excited because I am blessed with the gift to celebrate yet another year with my family and friends. Another year of adventures, learning, giving and receiving the joy of life from everyone around me. I don't look at it as getting old, growing gray hair or new wrinkles - nature will do what it has to do- to me it is definitely a day when I look back at all I have done, the lives I've touched and the ones that are still with me today and say "Thank You God for this fantastic gift!"

So I share with you my birthday bouquet of flowers. A collage from the pretty little things I get to enjoy on this peaceful morning. I took these pictures around 6:15 am, it's raining a little, and the weather is cool. Perfect day! Enjoy the flowers!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blue Monday - Warm Days of Summer

Blue Monday is hosted by Sally at Smiling Sally. Visit her blog to see what others are sharing.

Here you have it, a set of pictures that speak to the upcoming season. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

He's leaving my nest

This week I have been working very hard to not think about all the momentus changes taking place in our lives over the next six months. I work hard to not cry and keep my cool. I work hard to maintain balance among the little ones, the friends, the co-workers, the students and all the people in my life. However, eventually something's gotta give. As I was driving to the gym this morning, this time for me and not anyone else, I found myself crying. My first born boy is graduating High School tomorrow and although he will be living with us over the summer, in September he will be leaving my nest to attend Westminster Choir Collage in Princeton, New Jersey.

He has been a true gem, an incredibly independent, self motivated, hands-off young man who pushed himself harder than anyone to do well and be the best he can be at everything he does. He's funny, charming, smart, loves to cook, sing, read, play the piano, read, eat, cook, watch good movies, read, eat...I think I mentioned that already. His favorite past time next to reading is eating.

I am proud of him and wouldn't want him to stay home longer than he wants to because he is ready to get out there and start the next chapter in his life in one of the best Music schools in the country. But I never imagined it would be so hard to let him go. This experience should prepare me for the next three---doubt it though. They each bring a certain something to my life which I will miss terribly so I'll deal with this separation anxiety one kid at a time.

I guess I'll cry a little more between today, his graduation tomorrow and the final drop off when school starts in September. I pray each day that God give him the wisdom to make good decisions, the courage to reach for the stars, and the serenity to accept himself when things don't go his way.

To add to my anxiety we had a realtor visit us yesterday because the time has come for us to sell our home and move. Yes, we are expecting a new set of orders in the fall. Orders that will take us to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a three year tour. This is exciting on so many levels. My 15 yo daughter is torn about the whole deal but I think she is looking forward to the change and being in a school where her brother isn't the star and she is not expected to walk to the beat of his drum. But, there are the friends and at this age, moving is a difficult process. I will do my best to make it a good experience for her. As for the younger kids, they look forward to having summer year round and going to the beach whenever.

Ahhhh, the things we do. I have been either in the military myself or married to a military man for over 20 years now so moving is not an issue for me. I do embrace change, it's happening, it's coming and there's nothing I can do about it so why fight it. Everywhere we've lived we seem to find great friends, great adventures, and always manage to find the beauty of each city we've lived in.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday - Lee Hall Depot

Today's outdoor Wednesday is hosted by Susan at A Southern Day Dreamer. Visit her site to see more outdoors around the world! It's an amazing treat.

Today I want to share with you a bit of history. Below you see an old picture of the Lee Hall Depot. This little building is located just down the road from where I live and for the longest time, before I knew it's history, I used to think it was more of an eye sore. It's run down, boarded up and made the entry into Lee Hall look worse for wear. As I learned about it's history I realized this was a site that needed to be preserved. We read about the future of the depot and learned that the plan was in fact to preserve this bit of history and to do that they would physically move the building to another area just across the tracks where there would be more room for future passengers and visitors. The depot is located only a few feet from the tracks so this new plans is a really great idea.

Mural by artist Sidney E. King

This is what it looked like when I first moved here, four years ago.

This collage of pictures was taken this week. I wanted to capture the preparation process. We still wonder how in the world they move a building, an entire building so I'm really glad we're not moving until after they move it because I will be there taking pictures everyday they are working. Right now they have separated the main building from one of the additions. That section has been lifted off the ground and placed on wooden blocks...what's next-- guess we'll have to wait and see.

Since we've been here the city has made a plea for donations, received gifts and grants from various organizations and now they are ready to get moving- literally!

Here's a bit of history from their website:

he historic Lee Hall depot was constructed in the 1880s as part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad’s efforts to establish its Atlantic terminus at Newport News, thereby linking the Ohio River Valley with the sea. The station was sited on Warwick Road, now Boulevard, connecting the Warwick Courthouse with Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Traditionally, the depot served the Yorktown, Lee Hall, and lower James City County communities and was the social and economic focal point of the village of Lee Hall that grew around the station.

The depot is the only remaining station on the Lower Virginia Peninsula from the railroad’s expansion into Warwick County. Five stations (Lee Hall, Oriana, Oyster Point, Morrison, and Newport News) once served the county. It is a symbol of Newport News’ early development from the agrarian Warwick County into the modern City of Newport News and of the history of transportation.

The restored depot will provide an area for a light rail transit
stop, a gift shop/admissions area, and two exhibit galleries. The exhibits will include “Lee Hall Village: A Railroad Community” and a children’s hands-on exhibit entitled “Rails Across America.” Both exhibits fulfill the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning requirements for school-age students.

Additionally, the station will be named to the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register as it has already been decreed eligible for listing.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Blue Monday - outdoor weather

Blue Monday hosted by Sally at Smilling Sally. Please visit her site to see links of what others are sharing!

My blue has a little story behind it. Last week started of super hot here in the Virginia Peninsula so on a whim I decided it was time to get the kids their yearly outdoor fun toys. So I went out and bought mini water guns, this lovely sprinkler whale and a three ring pool. The were so excited to get out there and play. But it was late and we decided to get everything ready for the next day. So we blew up the pool, hooked up the whale and set up the back yard for fun.

Unfortunately, the next day was not so hot, in fact it was 20 degrees cooler. But that never stops a kid from getting wet outdoors. However, by the time school was out we realized we were facing tornado warnings, thunderstorms and lightning--several of which were hitting close by. OK that was not good. Both my little ones stood by the back door and looked out, so disappointed.

Since then the toys have been all over, the pool lost most of the air we put in and the whining did stop after a while. I felt so bad for them.

Well today, this week actually seem like it will be a winner for them. The temp will be in the 80's with high humidity so I'm ready for the outdoor fun. I think I'm more excited then the kids. They don't know it but when they come home from school it will be time for some serious back yard fun!! I can't wait!!

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By the way--I need to share a couple of pictures with you. These are grapes, still developing on my grapevine. The kind you would use to make wine in fact. No, not trying to make wine - that's for another time in my life.

And these are my tomatoes. I can't wait for them to ripen. They already look delicious.

Happy Blue Monday everyone!

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

About Wine

photo by On The Grapevine

As promised, here's a little education on wine: 

When Terie and I discussed my contribution to her blog on wine matters, we were in agreement that it should take on a mixed format to include the basics of viticulture and wine making, the various wine varieties and styles available, matching food with wine, wine tasting tips plus any interesting gossip in the world of wine.

Hopefully I can do this in a simple and entertaining way. In no way do I want to turn the whole thing into a series of lectures. Some people take wine very seriously…..way too seriously! But as the doyen of the Australian wine industry, the late Len Evans, once said “Wine is a great drink, but it's a drink, it's the juice of fermented grapes. So just drink the stuff, be quiet and get on with it.” He also once said "Life is too short to drink bad wine” I have always tried to follow his advice.

Most of my wine experience has been in Australia but I have also visited wine regions in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand and the USA. I hope all this has given me a broader outlook on the industry worldwide.

Where to start?  Grapes might be the obvious place.  So what are wine grapes and where do they come from?

If you remember your high school biology you might recall those terrible double-barrelled Latin names that all organisms have. Without having to make you seek out your old textbooks let’s just say wine grapes fall under the genus Vitis which in turn are classified by their species.

The ones we are interested in are the European Vitis vinifera and the various American Vitis species.  European grapes include all the well known wine grapes eg. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay. Merlot etc. as well as table and drying grapes eg. Sultana (Thompson Seedless). 

What a lot of people don’t realise is that European grapes are all the same species, they vary simply by variety. It is said there may be about 8000 of which 1000 are used for wine. And just to complicate matters (stay with me on this) each variety can have a number of clones ie. despite being genetically identical they can differ in growth patterns and fruit production characteristics. 

Pinot Noir for example is said to have between 200 and 1000 clones! Cabernet Sauvignon around 12. American grapes consist of about 20 species and also numerous varieties. For wine making the American grape Vitis labrusca is the main one used and many people will recognise the varietal names Concord, Isabelle, Catawba, Niagara and Delaware.

However most wine drinkers agree that American grapes do not make the best wine, the main disadvantage being a rather pungent or ‘foxy’ flavour. But the vines do have viticultural attributes eg. disease resistance, so efforts have been made to “cross” the American and European species. These are known as hybrids.  American wine drinkers probably recognise the hybrid varietal names Baco Noir, Edelweiss, Frontenac, La Crosse and Seyval Blanc.

So what is the origin of these grapes?

American grapes are of course native to various regions of North America. European grapes have their origin in Western Europe, Central Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. They have been growing wild for some hundreds of millions of years. Domestication is said to have taken place around 3000BC.

Some history here.... focus for a moment:

The first written accounts of grapes and wine can be found in ancient Mesopotamian text from the third millennium BC. There are also numerous hieroglyphic references to wine from ancient Egypt. 

The ancient Greeks introduced grape growing and wine making to Europe and then as colonists to southern Italy. The Etruscans further developed these wine making techniques and eventually the Romans took over from there.  

Between the fifth and tenth centuries, viticulture was almost exclusively an activity of the different religious orders in their monasteries. The Benedictines and others extended the grape growing limit, within Europe, northwards. Viticulture also eventually became popular with the aristocracy of France as a symbol of prestige.

The rest, as they say, is history.


On The Grapevine

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blue Monday--Patriotic Concert on the Beach

Blue Monday is hosted by Sally at Smiling Sally.  Visit her site to see what other's are sharing on this glorious day!!

This past weekend was my annual Girls Getaway weekend and let me tell you...it was amazing!  We walked the beaches, the boardwalk, and the streets lined with souvenir shops so many times.  My legs are sore but it's all worth it.

To improve our weekend we found out through a friend who happens to be a bouncer/police guy that the USO was hosting a concert on the beach and he had tickets for us.  That was the icing on the cake...so we thought.

This is my favorite flag photo yet.  I was on my knees on the sand, looking up and the people behind me agree..it was perfect.  We were sitting in an area specially for military families and members, current and retired.  We had the pleasure of meeting some truly amazing people.  One fantastic group were those that did the Ride to Recovery 350 mile bike ride from DC to VA Beach, it was in our local paper but somehow I missed it, however, I was so glad to be there to meet them in person.  Some were wounded soldiers on a special bike.  Some others had wound only they could feel but still they gathered up their strengths and support for a good cause.  They are amazing!!

This is my twin sister Lin...what, you don't see the resemblance.  Ok so my tan is a little deeper than hers but otherwise we're identical. In fact my other sister has red hair and freckels--go figure.  OK so we are identical in life experience, love for our families, and love for our weekend getaway too.  

So this is David Cook and his drummer along with my twin sister Lin (red) and our new little sister Lindsey (blue).  It was exciting meeting the band in person and "partying" with them at the top of the Hilton.  I really kept wishing my daughter and son were there with me because David is most definitely on their iPod and they would have loved to have met him.  Having a picture was a must for them.  

Finally, you all know how much I love the sky and all it's wonder.  This is the sunset on the morning we were checking out of our hotel.  It's a little fuzzy but it is my favorite time of day--early morning, when the sun is rising and the birds are waking.  Just a few people doing what I love to do at this time of day--relaxing, meditating, contemplating life.

Enjoy the week everyone!

PS:  Come back tomorrow for the wine article from Neil.