75 hard, alcohol-free, Blog posts, Cocktails, Day Drinking, Healthy Living, Holiday Wines, social media, thirsty thursday, Veterans, What's In My Glass, wine, Wine and Food Pairing

A Side Hustle Worthy of Discussion…

We’re talking side dishes for your holiday and summer BBQs

I am thrilled to joining Mandy and the skeleton crew of folks left in the iHeart building the Friday before the Memorial Day observance and the official start to the summer season…which, if the weather cooperates, means grilling and outdoor gatherings with family and friends.

But first, just a short reminder of the meaning behind Memorial Day and a special request from me as you gather to enjoy what I hope is a wonderful weekend for you and your circle of family and friends.

Usually around this time of year, lots of folks express their appreciation for the friends and family who are serving or have served in the military. While we certainly appreciate your appreciation, this is actually a time when we honor and remember our brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and our Constitution. We pay our respects at their gravestones, commit to complete military inspired challenges like the “Murph Challenge,” where each Memorial Day folks like me push through our limits to remember the pain and sacrifice Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy experienced during his final moments (it involves a one mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, and another one mile run…I plan to do so…want to join me? Sign up here: themurphchallenge.com), in addition to gather to share stories about those we have lost. If you have ever been with friends who have served and perhaps wondered why they may seem a little down, quiet, or thoughtful, often it is because our thoughts are on those who never made it back.

So, instead of thanking those you know who are serving and have served, give those brothers and sisters your best by visiting a local military cemetery or helping to raise money for the families of the fallen or seek to pay tribute to the fallen in some other way. While we sincerely appreciate every thanks and hat tip around this time of year, our hearts remain with those who didn’t come home and with their families left behind. If you are looking for a worthy cause, scroll on down to the bottom of this post for one of my favorite organizations that I support on a monthly basis.

Now that I have addressed Memorial Day, let’s turn our focus to today’s tastings. This time of year officially signals the beginning of summer and I am sure most of our fallen would want all of us to enjoy this time with family and friends. I am the first to jump at a good barbeque and certainly some day drinking (I need some time between alcohol/food and sleep…it is for the best and as the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.”) So, let’s chat BBQ, sides, and the wines that love them!

Let’s first discuss the food: I have ordered foods from two local businesses. One is a local macaroni and cheese restaurant (Mac Nation) up in Indian Hills (just outside of Red Rocks) and local BBQ purveyor, G Que BBQ.

We will be inviting the remaining employees left behind in the great iHeart exodus of 2023 prior to the first big weekend of summer to sample and taste several types of mac and cheese plus smoked meat. What could be better? Well, each employee will be bringing their side of choice. It’s a side hustle episode, with some wine and smoked meat thrown in for good measure. It is sure to please all involved while offering you some good ideas for your own holiday fare.

What are the wines we will be pairing? Well…several are going to be from our own West Elk AVA on the Western Slope of Colorado simply because I just spent the most amazing weekend at The Storm Cellar with close friends of mine (despite me not able to enjoy the wine) and my favorite red wines to enjoy while you are grilling or taking in the great outdoors with foods meant to be held in one’s hand or on a paper plate. So, let’s break ’em down…

Up first, we are going to sample the perfect wine pairing for a side dish of mac and cheese (we have a variety of mac and cheese from Mac Nation…this would be exceptional with most) and that is a Gewürztraminer from The Storm Cellar in Hotchkiss, CO. This Gewürtz is crafted in the classic Alsatian style, giving it a silky and bone-dry texture with notes of lychee, honeysuckle and orange blossom, Meyer lemon, and baking spices (think nutmeg.) It is THE BOMB with Thai food, grilled chicken or wings, pulled pork or pulled chicken, and any “shark coochie” board. I LOVE a good Gewürtz and this one does not disappoint.

I also selected the most recent release from Storm Cellar, their exceptional Chardonnay. Now, if you have followed and listened to me with any regularity, you know I do NOT like oaky, buttery chard. I find it loses its character and natural beauty but there are certainly palates out there that love those notes…just not mine. So, I decided to bring this in for Mandy simply because It. Is. Amazing. Like, hands down…AMAZEBALLS. I am not one to push wine clubs, but if this is the only way to get this gorgeous wine, it is worth the price of entry (but do check Blanchard Family Wines or make a trip over to their tasting room this summer…you won’t be disappointed by Steve and Jayme, and the view from their vineyard is on par with this wine…AMAZEBALLS.)

Wow, hello view

Now, if you don’t enjoy the wine life (no judgement here as I drank plenty last weekend), Jayme Henderson is also well known for her mocktails and willingness to accommodate those guests who do not imbibe. I love Jayme so much…she is elegant and rugged, refined yet willing to hang with her chickens, goats, farm dogs, and garden plants: she is simply an amazing human being who has been blessed with an equally gifted partner in life who is simply her soulmate, Steve. These two pour their hearts into every wine they make and take their art, and it IS art, seriously. Their Chardonnay has supplanted my favorite white wine of Chablis, not just for the wine itself, but because I can experience it amidst such wonderful human souls as Steve and Jayme in their perfection on a mesa. Please, please, please…support this small business!

When you have mocktails this gorgeous, who needs wine?

I have also added in two rosés, one from The Storm Cellar and the other from a nearby producer from Cedaredge, Chill Switch Wines. While I am certainly HUGE fans of Steve and Jayme, I am equally a serious fan girl of fellow wine nerd, Dave Aschwanden. Much like Steve and Jayme, he seeks to grow his own grapes so that he can craft his wine from root to bottle. I *may* (or may not) have been part of the purchasing group of two that sought to buy up all of Dave’s 2019 Teroldego because it was impeccable, but he is offering up a rosé pf Zinfandel. Now, most of you know my thoughts on “white zin.” This is NOT white zin. In fact, Dave allows the beauty of a wine that kisses the skins of its grapes for just a fleeting moment to give it all the black fruit and pepper notes one would expect of a Zinfandel with the acidity and fruit forward aspects rosés often give us red wine drinkers to cool our palates in the hot days of summer. This is what “white zin” was always supposed to be and I must pay my respects to such an exceptional wine, perfect for summer daze and BBQs. Yall, Chill Switch wine is a must have if you truly enjoy the small wine maker approach to wine. Dave is truly what wine making is all about…do check his portfolio out and either look out for his wines or consider joining his wine club (same goes for The Storm Cellar!)

Our other rosé is also from The Storm Cellar (they specialize and have redefined Colorado whites and rosés) and is a rosé of St. Vincent. This medium-hued rosé, from an obscure yet cold hearty grape. is dramatic in the glass and on the palate. Pomegranate, cranberry, ripe plum dance along your taste buds while citrus peel, roses, and herbes de Provence make this an exceptional pairing with grilled, roasted, or smoked cuisine. On a hot day, this sexy rosé will cool the palate while tantalizing the taste buds. What more could you ask for?

It wouldn’t be a wine pairing from me without some reds…I picked up some very affordable wines from The Wine Gallery in Colorado Springs. These two are the quintessential pairings with grilled and smoked meat: the Aussie version of Syrah aka Shiraz and Spain’s Monastrelle aka Mouvèdre. So, two spins on common noble varietals making them the perfect spin on our nation’s various spins on smoked and grilled meats. Both have such a jammy quality and hints of smoke that they are the perfect supporting characters to your outdoor activities around the grill.

And yes, those are the yellow grits Mandy Connell asked me to pick up during my last visit to South Carolina. I have officially become a grits dealer. Did I mention all of the above wines would also pair impeccably with shrimp and grits?

I haven’t tasted all the foods yet but I expect them to be as amazing as these wines. Regardless, this weekend I will be toasting my fallen friends and the kids of my friends, specifically, SPC Dane Balcon. That kid prayed for me at one of my lowest points in my life and since then, I have considered him my own personal angel. Should you be looking for a reputable 501C to donate to in order to support those who have paid the ultimate price for their country, please consider the scholarship fund Dane’s mom, and my very good friend and fellow Air Force retiree, Carla Sizer, set up in his memory. You can find out more information here: danebalcon.org.

This may be our last time together with Mandy for a hot second while she and I both take some much needed breaks for self care…I have Phase Two of the Live Hard program waiting for me in July which means no alcohol and low carbs for me for another thirty days…but it has been totally worth it. I am down fourteen pounds and am feeling the best I have felt in a very long time. Make sure you are also taking care of you as best you can. As always, if you have questions about wines, foods, 75 Hard or Live Hard…please don’t hesitate to connect with me.

Cheers and namaste.


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