Embracing My New Surroundings

Having lived in North Carolina since 1996, I have become accustomed to having wineries at my finger tips.  The wine industry is alive and well in North Carolina with almost 120 wineries in their repertoire now.  I live within 15 minutes of some great wineries and could easily run out on a Friday afternoon and hang out with good friends and sip on some of NC’s finest wines.  That’s not so easy here in South Carolina.  The weather here is not conducive to grape growing because of the sandy soil and extreme humidity so there are only 12 (yes, I said 12) wineries in the whole state.  😦

But I have decided to embrace the wine culture here so I started by visiting my first South Carolina winery, Island Winery on Hilton Head Island.  I was pleasantly surprised!

pulled from Island Winery website.

pulled from Island Winery website.

Island winery has quite the wine list, ranging from whites like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Carmenere.  They also carry some sweeter Southern favorites.  My suspicions were confirmed – the grapes are sourced and delivered to the winery immediately for crushing.  They come from some of the best wine regions around the globe.  Riesling is sourced from the shores of Lake Michigan to the upper regions of Lake Ontario in New York.  They get Zinfandel from Lodi, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the Suisun Valley and Sangiovese from Amador County – all part of northern California.  They also get Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenere from the Curico Valley in Chile.

IS wines 1

The winery is owned by Loren and Georgene Mortimer.  If you recognize the name, the Mortimer’s also own Westfall Winery in Montague, New Jersey.  The vineyard at Westfall Winery was first planted in the fall of 2000.  The Mortimer’s spend the hot summers in New Jersey and then head South to Hilton Head for the winters.  Some of the same wines are sold at both wineries.

Island Winery offers fun evenings for locals and tourists alike.  Each evening Monday through Thursday they have Happy Hour starting at 4pm where they serve wine flights consisting of three different wines along with a cheese plate.  Every Friday they offer a barrel tasting featuring two different wines during the tasting along with your choice of a glass of wine and a cheese plate.

The winery also has a selection of “Lowcountry Specialty Wines” consisting of their own blend of Sangria called Southern Passion and Peach on the Beach – perfect for mixing with prosecco to make a drink similar to a bellini.  But my favorite is their Margarita Wine.  It tasted just like a margarita, all I needed was some salt on the rim and a lime.  What a great, refreshing summer drink!

Friendly couple tasting along side me

Friendly couple tasting along side me

I have had homemade Margarita Wine before, but had to get creative and make a Sangria Styled Margarita with it.  I couldn’t drink it “straight.”  But this wine is delicious.  Something tells me it will be one of those fun items on the menu at Latitude Wine Bar!

I wan to say a special, “Thank You,” to Linda Biersack for guiding me through my tasting and for all the great tips regarding the South Carolina wine lifestyle.

Wine & Cigars

Everybody has a story to tell; sometimes they have an audience and sometimes they don’t – AND sometimes you create your own venue and let the audience come to you.  This is what Juan Carlos & Isabella Jiménez have done.  Six months ago they opened  “ta-ca-ron“.  They now have their piece of the American Pie and the audience for their story.

I was driving home from Beaufort the other day and in typical Red Wine Diva fashion, I spotted a sign for “Boutique Wines” and knew immediately, I would have to pay a visit to this store.

Juan Carlos, a marine biologist specializing in whales, left Cuba on April 19 (not sure what year) to find a better life.  Well he did more than that, he found a partner to share that life with.  When Carlos and Isabella got married, Carlos packed up and moved from Florida to Arizona, Isabella’s home.  After six years, he missed the ocean and the marine life he had studied and worked so closely with for years.  He convinced Isabella they should head back to the East Coast.  Their intent was to visit major cities along the coast and find the one that suited them best.  Driving south from Charleston, they decided to take a detour through Beaufort.  It was December 30 and most everything was closed.  The only thing they could find open for dinner was the Breakwater in Beaufort.  The place was packed with no seating room so they opted to sit at the bar.  You learn a lot about people and places sitting at a bar.  Three bottles of wine later, the couple had decided that the quaint, beautiful, historic Beaufort would be their new home.

Ta-ca-ron is still a work in progress.  Today they specialize in gourmet condiments and sauces, specialty beers from around the globe, Latin coffee, boutique wines and the most unique gift items.  But let’s not forget the cigars – they really specialize in cigars!  Carlos actually owns a factory in the Dominican Republic where Cuban seed cigars are manufactured.  Originally the cigars were only sold at wholesale but today ta-ca-ron has limited hours where they are open to the public and these cigars can be purchased.

The cigars are where the stories come in.  Each cigar is named after an event or a story in Carlos’ life.  Ta-ca-ron’s premier cigar is an anniversary cigar called 4/19.

Carlos' Anniversary date of leaving Cuba

4/19 – Carlos’ Anniversary date of leaving Cuba

The next cigar represents a Chevrolet Impala owned by Carlos’ father.  The Impala mysteriously went missing without any trace of what happened to it until they saw it being driven by Castro on TV.  A few weeks later it mysteriously reappeared (crashed) back home.

Castro Impala

Proud of his heritage, Carlos also sells items that represent his family.  This private label coffee shows his Mother and Father dancing.


Carlos and Isabella are very philanthropic and believe in giving back.  They have created their own Foundation, El Campesino Foundation.  Funds raised through this foundation provide shoes for less fortunate children in the Dominican Republic.


Juan Carlos visiting the children

Juan Carlos visiting the children

Ta-ca-ron is in the process of setting up a wine boutique to go with their cigars.  They already have a few wines on the shelf and have more coming in.  Once again, celebrating their heritage, the wines will come from Spain, South America – and beyond.

Sangria reminiscent of the Spanish Sangria Carlos' Father used to make.

Sangria reminiscent of the Spanish Sangria Carlos’ Father used to make.

Gazela Vinho Verde

Gazela Vinho Verde

Typical hours for ta-ca-ron are Thursday thru Saturday but I have it on good advice that if you see a little red convertible outside any day of the week that you are welcome to come in and browse or visit.  You’ll be glad you did!!!

Cheers to Juan Carlos & Isabella for living the American Dream!!!

Latitude Logo Apparel

As most of you know, I am opening a wine bar in Bluffton, South Carolina – just outside of Hilton Head. The process has been (much) slower than I ever could have imagined, but things have started moving forward. Today we got t-shirts in with our logo. We wanted the shirts so that we could start wearing them out in public to build an awareness of the wine bar. I actually wasn’t planning on selling them, but I have had several people say they would like one.

Logoed computer bag and t-shirt

Logoed computer bag and t-shirt

The shirts are great!  We bought them through a local company called New South Shirts.  The price was very reasonable and everything looks so good.  These shirts are embroidered and for a one-time setup fee, I can now go back to New South Shirts any time and order additional merchandise – embroidered or screen-printed.

New South Shirts

New South Shirts

As a matter of fact, New South Shirts has been so easy to work with (love their staff!!!) that we have decided to order extra shirts to give away on Facebook.  Obviously we are trying to build up our following on FB as well so for a chance to get one of these shirts, please click here and give us a thumb’s up.

We will be hosting a special “Grand Opening” for our Facebook followers as well so stay tuned for the announcement!

What do you think?  Are you as excited as we are???

      Ladies Logoed Shirt

Ladies Logoed Shirt

Side Bar:  I have decided to dedicate Monday to blogging about Latitude Wine Bar.  I originally set up a separate blog for the wine bar, but it is just too much to keep up with and as one avid follower pointed out, Latitude Wine Bar will eventually have its own web site and won’t really need a blog dedicated to this journey.  I appreciate all of you being part of this experience and hope to one day serve you a glass of vino.

Reclaim, Reuse, Repurpose

Latitude - The Journey

If you’ve ever built a house, you know first-hand how difficult it can be to choose everything from the brick or siding to the counter tops to the lighting and plumbing.  It’s fun, but it can be stressful as well.  Having built a house, I thought I would be a step ahead of understanding the process – and I am, but I REALLY want the wine bar to represent my personality.  I don’t want to throw money away on lights or counter tops that don’t match or work with the feel of the bar.

The image above has given me my inspiration.  My goal is to use as much as I can from reclaimed and repurposed products.  I visit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Bluffton frequently.  On one visit I got really lucky, finding a sink for one of the restrooms as well as the siding for the bar counter.

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Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 7

Trader Joe's

This is the final post on the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  All  in all, the wines have been great and well worth the bargain prices you find at Trader Joe’s.  As I mentioned in my first post about Tribunal, I actually went back and bought a full case of it.  I am still very impressed with it each time I open a bottle.  (Something tells me there aren’t many bottles left – but whose counting?)   But today’s post is regarding bottle #7 – a 2010 Cline Zinfandel.

Zinfandel has been one of my favorite varietals for a few years now.  I was surprised to find this one on the shelves at Trader Joe’s.  I follow Cline Cellars on Twitter (@ClineCellars) but had never tried any of their wines.  This was why I purchased it, not only was it a zinfandel, it was by one of my favorite Twitter followers .  Anytime I interact closely with a winery on social media, I want to try their wines.  I want them to know that I am willing to support them not only through social media but truly support them.  Of course a lot of these wines are not available to me so I snatch them up when I have the chance.

I contacted Cline Cellars to see if this wine was made specifically for Trader Joe’s and was told that it is not.  They do sell to Trader Joe’s but this wine is part if their regular production and can be purchased at the winery as well.  Trader Joe’s does carry some wines that are only available through them even though they are made by well-known wineries.

This Cline Zinfandel is a typical California Zin with rich jammy, berry flavors and aromas of vanilla.  I would definitely buy it again and if I am ever close to Cline Cellars, I will stop by for a tasting of their full line-up.  I hear they have a great Rose’.

Varietal: Zinfandel          Alcohol:  14.0%          Price:  $7.99

What is your favorite wine from Trader Joe’s?  Need help deciding, please check out the first six wines from my wine haul:

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 1

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Parts 2 & 3

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 4

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 5

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 6

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 6

Chardonnay Day is an annual event where wine passionistas all over the world open bottles of Chardonnay to sip its praises.  It’s a major event celebrated on all forms of social media as well at wineries and wine bars.  This year’s Chardonnay Day was May 26.   I selected Vintage Press, one of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago.


I have been pleasantly surprised by most of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  This one, like most of the others, did not disappoint!  Vintage Press is a buttery Chardonnay with hints of vanilla and stone fruit such as nectarines or peaches.  I picked up delectable caramel notes as well, like the caramelized crust of Grandma’s peach cobbler.  Vintage Press is mellow with a silky smooth finish and bursting with flavor.  I highly recommend it for a relaxing evening of summer sipping.

Varietal:  Chardonnay          Alcohol:  13.9%          Price:  $8.99

For further reading about Vintage Press Chardonnay, I recommend, Aspiring Wine Geek:  Tasting Notes, Vintage Press.

And for more insider notes regarding Trader Joe’s wine, check out TJ’s Wine Community.

Unlocking Dead Bolt

This wine was a media sample from The Brand Action Team and Pernod Ricard USA Wines.


Touted as a “premium red blend,” I couldn’t agree more.  Dead Bolt poured into the glass a dark purple with ruby edges.  On the nose I got black current, blackberry and plum.   On the first sip, I got the rich jammy taste of a Zinfandel as well as the bold taste of a Cabernet Sauvignon with black cherry and mocha being predominant.  It is very full-bodied.

Dead Bolt is a proprietary red blend that marks Pernod Ricard’s first California wine brand and they have definitely locked this one up.  The wine includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah, Shiraz and Zinfandel but the percentage of each is sealed securely behind the dead bolt.  They chose to create a red blend as that is the fastest growing segment of the wine market.

Even though this is a good sipping wine, it would pair especially well with red meat or a hearty pasta dish.

Varietal: Red Blend          Alcohol:  13%          Price:  $15.99

Mira Winery Makes History with Aquaoir

Mira Winery Makes History after Successfully Recovering Wine Aged in Charleston Harbor

Taste Test Reveals How Quickly Two Wines Changed Paths


Charleston, S.C. (May 22, 2013) – Mira Winery concluded a historic three-month experiment in the Charleston, S.C. Harbor Tuesday, May 21, 2013 when the Napa-based producer of fine wines recovered four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from 60 feet below in the Atlantic Ocean. Mira is the first American winery to successfully experiment with aging wine in the ocean.

“There is no doubt that the ocean holds a potential gift to wine,” said Mira Winery President, Jim “Bear” Dyke Jr. “The success of Phase I makes us more committed than ever to going back down in the fall with twice the cages for twice the time.”

In February, Mira Winery began Phase I of its project by submerging cages filled with its wine to test how it would be affected if aged in the ocean, experimenting with the major elements that can affect aging — temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, light – or lack thereof – and oxygen. The experiment follows generations of European wineries that have explored the ocean’s impact on wine.

Mira Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez, and Communion Wine Club Advanced Sommelier Patrick Emerson first tasted the wine before sharing the results on a conference call with Mira Wine Club Members.

“In full disclosure, I am a big fan of the control wine which was on land,” said Emerson. “I am quite surprised – shocked at how quickly these two wines have changed paths – something magical has happened with Aquaoir. The signature difference might be in the riddling motion of the tides.”

“It’s not better, its not worse and it is definitely different,” said Gustavo Gonzalez. “The land wine is tighter versus Aquaoir aged wine which is more complex and broad, more open and relaxed. The result is proof certain that we have more to learn.”

Mira Winery will share temperature readings and other information from Phase I on its website at miranapa.com/charlestonharbor. Twelve bottles of the wine will be sold via the website exclusively to Wine Club Members, beginning July 1, 2013 on a first come basis.

Mira Winery, launched in September 2012, employs the craftsmanship of Napa Valley 100-point Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez. Mira’s wine was most recently rated by Wine Enthusiast with the 2010 Pinot Noir receiving 94 points and named “Editors’ Choice” and the 2009 Syrah receiving 92 points. Mira prioritizes craftsmanship over production, yielding handcrafted, small production wines that can be found in fine dining restaurants throughout CA, Charleston, S.C., Palm Beach, FL and Washington, D.C. and at www.miranapa.com.

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

Open cage of wine retrieved from the ocean

first bottle

First bottle retrieved after 3-month Aquaoir aging.

G during taste testing

Gustavo Gonzales

About Mira Winery

Mira Winery produces Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Red Wine, Rose, White Wine, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Napa Valley. Old world tradition meets new world techniques.

Terra Andina Sparkling Moscato

This wine was a media sample from Terra Andina and Palm Bay International

One of my favorite things to do is simply hang out with my husband.  He is my best friend and we love lazy afternoons where we can sit and talk or just share the day and occasionally he even a glass/bottle of wine with me.  He likes wine, but prefers beer.  When it comes to wine he is very particular.  His palate is limited and he doesn’t push himself beyond his comfort zone, he knows what he likes and that’s typically what he sticks with.  He doesn’t like rose’ and rarely tries any white wines, but the other day he came into the house and wanted something different to drink.  He didn’t want wine, he didn’t want beer.  It must have been his luck y day as I had already started chilling a sparkling Moscato to enjoy later.


A dry champagne would not have suited the hot May afternoon, but this slightly sweet sparking wine was a real treat.  Hubby popped open the bottle and we headed outside.  Sitting on the covered back porch with the ceiling fan stirring just enough air to take the heat away, we sipped and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

Terra Andina describes this wine as chic, refreshing and like Brazil itself, fun and full of life.  With only 7.5% alcohol, it was the perfect afternoon drink.

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