Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 7!

So, I took a risk on this one. I picked up the Gresser Vineyard “Recumbent Red”, NV Oregon at Roth’s while I was scouring for another under-the-radar red and it caught my eye. I liked the price, I liked the package, I googled it quickly to see what the blend was and a bit about the winery (I take longer to pick out wine than anyone you know). I was convinced that at $13.99, I would be in for a solid little everyday red wine, if nothing else. Interestingly, the less than $14 price range seems to be my own personal cutoff of wine I’m willing to risk buying “just to see.”

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I’m a little new to the world of actually purchasing wine as a consumer. Since I spent so long as a GM/wine buyer, I just never had need to buy wine. It just came to me. There were always open bottles that I could sip on while I finished paperwork, or a sample bottle here and there. And when I did buy wine, it was at a steep “Ricky discount”. Those were wildly varied, but always extremely acceptable. So I am sort of enjoying attacking the retail shelves, armed only with my existing knowledge, a desired budget, and whatever kind of mood I’m in.

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Initially, I thought this wine fell a little short; I think was because for some reason I had it in my head that since it was a Pinot/Syrah blend (remember, the rule is Pinot Noir can be included in my project if its blended), it would be a touch denser. On the contrary, it drinks like a Pinot Noir (go figure). But the Syrah notes I get are actually a nice little addition to the wines overall palate. The nose is overtaken by sour cherry, rhubarb, pomegranate, potpourri and dried herbs. The finish is where you pick up on some violet and white pepper additions, and a bit of a fleshed out texture- hey, Syrah! Maybe a slight hint of cured meat. It sits at 77% Pinot Noir from their estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, and 23% Syrah from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. Just 465 cases were made.

Going back to my prior incarnation as a buyer, if this wine were poured for me from a distributor and the wholesale price is what I can guess it to be (I’ll keep that a secret), I would definitely consider it as a glass pour. Especially if it were late summer/early fall; it would really fit the bill of unusual lighter reds, which we used to do very well with that time of year in SC. Plus it has good retail shelf presence, in my opinion. Good enough to get ME to buy it, at least! And I’m kind of a tough critic.

One more note about NV wines- I’m sort of a fan. Don’t be dissuaded. This included, there are some really great NV wines (still, rather than sparkling) out there that suffer a bit of an image problem. The Sokol Blosser Evolution wines are always non-vintage, and I think it helps them stay consistent from year to year. I won’t get all wordy on this subject, but just wanted to throw it out there that Non Vintage doesn’t equal total junk, as can be the perception.

Can you blame me for double fisting? I had some Patton Valley Pinot Blanc left from Day 6’s post…

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

This winery is super small and family owned; the prices on all their wines are pretty competitive and I’d be curious to try more of their juice. Especially the Riesling. Overall this was a fun learning experience and I actually do really enjoy the wine selection at Roth’s.

Cheers to Day 7! This wine was $13.99, in case you missed that earlier. 

Here’s a preview: I’m going to combine days 8, 9 & 10 into one post and it will be called Chardonnay Party. I know I said I couldn’t repeat varietals more than once, but I have one I’ve been saving that I really want to open and I can’t resist. There may also be crab involved. It’ll be good, I promise. It’ll most likely go up on Saturday. Can you handle the suspense?!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 6!

What shall we do on day six? Take a break from some of the more hard to find grapes and drink some durn Pinot Blanc. How ’bout it?

Gimmee the Blanc.

Gimmee the Blanc.

The Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Blanc, 2013 Mora Brothers Vineyard is a delightful rendition. Hands down, Pinot Blanc is one of my favorite white Oregon grapes. Why? On average, they cost you a few more bucks than your run of the mill Pinot Gris, but those few bucks are so crucial. I will gladly extoll the virtues of Pinot Gris any day of the week, but to me a really nice Pinot Blanc brings a lot more to the table for that modest couple extra dollars you spend on it.

What strikes me about Pinot Blanc is always the minerality. I read somewhere that minerality can be a tough thing to really explain and clearly delineate. What do minerals taste like? No one eats minerals. So why describe a wine as minerally? For me it can often be more of a sensation; a pleasant little tingle on the tongue that stays with you. If you think about it logistically, minerals are found in soil; that much is simple. So a wine may have more minerality if it comes from a certain soil, or is made in a way that highlights the mineral tendencies (concrete, as an example, tends to do this). Another thing you might notice is that a “minerally” wine might make you salivate just a little. I really like that; I like for wine to leave my tastebuds wanting more. They also make great food pairing wines.

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In any case, I find Pinot Blanc to be just slightly more intriguing than Gris, and this one is no exception. It opens with delicacy; soft and floral. Accents of white peach, lime zest, green apple, Sleepytime tea, pears and clean white sheets. That sounds funny, but this wine really does remind me of freshly hung white sheets, billowing in the sunshine on a clothesline. That is one of my favorite things to smell, I should add. Blanc often has some distinct nutty aromas- I get a touch of faint almond here, but overall this wine sticks with the clean, bright fruit and freshy freshness.

Can't get enough of these views.

Can’t get enough of these views.

Just 158 cases were made, and the 2013 is the first vineyard-designate vintage for this wine. The day I went to Patton Valley was absolutely gorgeous. The northern Willamette, towards Gaston, is home to a couple of my favorite wineries. I had a really great experience in their tasting room, too; it was a quiet Friday and I was the only one there, but the associate (she may also manage the wine club? I can’t recall…) Talia, was really welcoming and we had ourselves a nice chat. I’m not 100% sure that’s how you spell her name. Plus I’m horrible with names, but I’m almost 100% sure that was her name. I’m truly sorry if its not.

They were tasting a lot of 2011 Pinot Noirs that day, too, and it was a treat. 2011 is becoming one of my favorite vintages for Pinot Noir. I guess I’m just a cold year dork like that. CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on some of the Patton Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir when it comes out. Squeeeeeee.

That concludes Day 6! I’m still having fun! Are you? This wine was purchased at the Patton Valley Vineyard Tasting Room for $20. A freakin’ steal.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 3- we goin’ to Eola!

Eola-Amity Hills, that is! An AVA in the southern part of the Willamette Valley, and a short 20/25 minute cruise from my house. Its funny, because listening to people speak about it as “down south” made it seem so far… but its really not far. However, it is far enough and with enough slightly different soils/microclimates that you can find some unique grapes! Like THIS- the Zenith Vineyard Estate Tempranillo, 2012! I’m pumped about this one, as finding reds that aren’t Pinot in Willamette proper is a bit of a challenge. But, as I’m also discovering, once we get to Southern Oregon and the Applegate Valley there will be lots of fun reds to be explored. But later for that! Today, we gots Tempranillo.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

So wine fans in the world might recognize this grape as being from España, and they’d be correct. Tempranillo’s “spiritual home” would be considered Spain. It likes heat, and after chatting with the tasting room associate at St. Innocent (which is where I purchased this wine- more on that later), come to find out this wine really only likes warm vintages in Oregon, like 2012. The 2008 vintage of this wine got 90 Points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

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So, just so you have a sense of where we are, route 99 runs along the left (west) side of the photo above. Just out of range of this map up 99 is the city of McMinnville. Down in the right hand corner of the map brings you roughly to the city of Salem. So many great wineries are located here. Now that I look at it closer, I think this map is a little on the old side- where you see the O’Connell vineyard pictured is actually now known as the Zenith Vineyard.

I visited St. Innocent last week and bought this bottle, as I said earlier. St. Innocent has been working with (what was then) the O’Connell vineyard since 1989, and did so until 1998, when the vineyard was leased to Willamette Valley Vineyards. In 2002, some St. Innocent customers named Tim & Kari Ramey (I’m paraphrasing all this from the St. Innocent website, by the way) purchased the O’Connell Vineyard, and in 2002 joined forces with St. Innocent winemaker and all-around awesome guy, Mark Vlossak, to form Zenith Vineyard, LLC. So Mark is the winemaker for these wines, and that was a looong way of explaining why I bought this wine at the St. Innocent tasting room. They’re sorta the same building. It’ll make sense if you go there- which you should! Zenith is huge in the area of weddings and events, I think that was sort of the idea when they purchased the site. But that is purely conjecture on my part.

I’m getting really long winded, so I’m gonna cut to the chase. Starting… NOW.

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So I’ve tasted this wine over the course of two days; on day one it was noticeably taut and had a pronounced cedar-ific nose, thanks to the luxurious 16 months it spent in American oak, 27% new. There was a prominent streak of red fruit and some higher floral tones, but this is definitely a veiny, dark wine. Deep, broad strokes of licorice, tar, earth, vanilla and blackberry that finished with a firm tannic bite. It wasn’t as bitey on day two, and actually revealed some fun notes of hickory, balsamic and more tar. Really nice juice.

My memory is escaping me, but I don’t think there’s much left of this wine, only 180 cases were made. If you’re an Oregonian, consider jetting down there to pick one up. While you’re there, you can try Mark’s stunning array of 2012 Pinot Noirs in the tasting room; I hadn’t had any ’12’s of his until that day and I was pretty floored. They showed more aging potential than a lot of 2012 Pinots that I’ve had to date. Do it, do it.

This wine was purchased at the St. Innocent/Zenith tasting room for $30.

Cheers to day three!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 1!

Happy New Year!

In honor of 2015 being an exciting year for me, I’m embarking on a little challenge this January! Since every year I resolve to blog more, and most years I only marginally succeed, I wanted to start out with a bang. Write about an Oregon wine a day for 30 days! It’s like those 30 day gym motivational challenges, except this one has WINE. So much better. Then I thought, I gotta make it a little harder (that’s what she said) and write about 30 Oregon wines that AREN’T Pinot Noir. Not that I don’t absolutely love Pinot Noir- I did move here, after all– but I think it’ll be super awesome to highlight some of the more under the radar grapes here in Oregon. So, BAM! #Oregon30in30 is born. Here goes.

Now, for the rules. These are all self-imposed. I have consulted no one. I am the master of my domain:

1.) Pinot Noir is only allowed if it’s been blended or turned into bubbles.

2.) Repeat grapes & wineries are acceptable, but no more than twice (ie, two different Rieslings, two wines from Willakenzie, etc).

3.) I have to have tasted (duh) the wine in question, but not necessarily purchased an entire bottle- can be written up based on a tasting room experience or bummed off a roommate, etc. My credit card would not thank me if I embarked on this having to purchase every single bottle, I ain’t gonna lie.

4.) When at all possible, these have to be wines I haven’t had before.

5.) I can combine a few wines into one post, at most once a week (ie- Gamay day, etc).

So, I think this will be fun! I hope you do, too! And if you’re someone who gets an email every time I write a post… well, don’t get all “my inbox is too cluttered!” and unsubscribe. I mean, you can if you want, but I’m sure once February rolls around I’ll be back to my once-a-week-maybe schedule.

Without further adieu, here is WINE NUMERO UNO! Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Müller-Thurgau, 2013…

Müller Bubbles. Mmm.

Müller Bubbles. Mmm.

So, I really enjoyed the 2011 Kramer Brut at the Southeast Wine Collective Dinner a few weeks ago and was itching to try another one of their sparklers. Also they have a tasting room that’s walking distance to my house, so I’m constantly looking at it and saying to myself, “man, I gotta get in there.”

Well, I didn’t this time, but I will. I bought this little guy at Roth’s in McMinnville on Monday knowing I’d want to drink it on New Years and that their tasting room would not be open before then. Oof. That was a lot of planning. #thisisyouinyourthirties.

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I like the intention behind this wine; to me, it’s essentially a Prosecco but its from Oregon and its much more fun. Titillating and flirty flavors of granny smith apple, fresh flowers, honeysuckle, apricot and a nice tingle of bright acidity. Fresh and ready to party. A wine that’s clearly meant to be consumed with joy, with friends, at parties, with nothing but whimsy in the air.

This wine was made bubbly using the tank method; stainless steel fermented, aged on the lees for 5 months, then transferred to a large stainless steel tank and infused with CO2. Whammo. Sparkling wine. This method is great for highlighting a wines natural delicacy and freshness, so this is a really fun little marriage. A charming little wine, I gotta say.

I gotta get in to that tasting room. First resolution of 2015, right there!

MY BUBBLES.

MY BUBBLES.

So here’s to a new year, a new state for me and lots of new wines to explore. I’m about to throw my black eyed peas in the crock pot, and sip on this bubbly while I clean the house and listen to 90’s music. If that ain’t a good way to start the new year, I don’t know what is.

Cheers! 

Chapter 24 “The Last Chapter” Pinot Noir, 12 Oregon, Willamette

Am I the only person on Earth to be drinking “The Last Chapter” by Chapter 24 while reclined on air mattress listening to Britney Spears?

Perhaps. Very possibly.

And for the record, I am listening to “90’s” on Spotify and this song just HAPPENED to come on. I mean, I’m 32. I don’t sit around listening to Britney’s first album in it’s *entirety*. But it’s pretty hard to resist when it does come on. Admit it.

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So the reason I led with that little intro was because this isn’t exactly the kind of wine you’d typically drink on a boring night while you’re wearing sweatpants and doing nothing in particular. This is one of the more expensive wines I’ve ever written about; and truthfully, it isn’t *that* much when you compare it to some of the big heavy hitters in boutique Napa wineries, famous century-old French estates, and the like. It sells for $90 at the tasting room. This wine also scored 96 points from Wine & Spirits, 93 from Wine Spectator, and 94 from Stephen Tanzer. When you hear scores like that, and you see the price tag, you might be inclined to dismiss it, thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to its praise and for that kinda money, you’d just as soon get a half case of some good everyday drinkers. There’s something to be said for that. But, after visiting this wine over the course of a weekend, I have to tell you- it does live up to the hype. It’s worth it. Sorry haters, but it just kinda is.

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Now I love Oregon wine- this much we know. And part of me thinks- well, you’re GD right you can make good wine when you start out bankrolled and with a powerhouse founding/winemaking team (Mark Tarlov and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair). Frenchie, in case you don’t know, is a very well-known and well-respected oeneologist/owner of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanee (Burgundy). The cool kids call it Voz-Rom, by the way. In comparison, I respect small operations wholeheartedly and always will. They are what make industries happen.

But to dismiss this wine for that reason alone would be remiss. True, scores do set expectations and force people to draw comparisons and come to conclusions they might not have come to on their own. However, the fact remains that this is beautifully made juice. And we live in a world where scores happen. So let’s leave that behind for now.

I don’t want to blather on too much longer before I get to the actual tasting notes, but it is worth noting that Chapter 24 Vineyards is a somewhat unique project in that it’s two “staple” bottlings are bottled by soil type, not by individual AVA. “The Fire” is sourced from AVAs with volcanic soil and “The Flood” from AVAs with sedimentary soil (these sell for $60 each). “The Last Chapter” comes from the top four vineyards that are used in Fire and Flood. So when you taste these wines, you’re also almost getting a little lesson in how different soil types taste. Which is pretty cool!

Technically, you could do that with almost any single vineyard bottling that you choose to purchase. Because vineyard sites are typically small enough that they’re only made up of one soil type. Technically. But it’s still really fun to be able to taste Fire and Flood side by side, and know that they’re from two different soil types in the same year. Okay, enough of that…. WHAT the F*%@ does it taste like?!

The nose is somewhat subtle, with fragrant red raspberry, plum & wild strawberry on the forefront, but very delicately woven nutmeg, clove and star anise following close behind. The palate is silky for days and met with darker notes of blackberry, briar patch, berry liqueur and very soft vanilla. It has tannin, but its completely seamless. The texture is really what this wine is all about. Without going into too many geeky details, there are some really interesting winemaking techniques at use here that make the texture happen. Its an experiential wine; it glides, it floats. Ephemeral, yet all the big fruit characteristics of the vintage are there. You’ll see what I mean.

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Chapter 24 tasting room! Brand-spankin’ new, located on the corner of 99 and 5th St in Newberg. 

Just under 900 cases of The Last Chapter were made. I’ll go out on a (not so big) limb and say it is worth seeking one out. Or, if you’re a local Oregonian, it’s *definitely* worth stopping in to the tasting room. It’s convenient (basically right in front of Dobbes, and right before Argyle, if you’re heading West on 99).

In the interest of full disclosure, I did help out at the Chapter 24 tasting room for Thanksgiving weekend, but I wasn’t paid to say nice things about the wine. I promise. The Oregon adventure continues to be a wild ride, but I am enjoying it; working here and getting to know these wines was a total treat.

Cheers, y’all!

 

The Eyrie Vineyards Chasselas Doré, 13 Dundee Hills

What the what?

Okay, so now I’m just straight up showing off a little. I’m showing off that I have access to this 80 case produced Swiss varietal grown in Willamette’s Dundee Hills. The wind is currently howling around me as I sit in the middle of the Dundee Hills (well, I’m inside, but y’know). So what better time than now to drink a light, fresh and clean white wine?

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Just so you’re forewarned, this wine is only available at the winery. 80 cases were made, and as of yesterday they had about 8 left, according to the tasting room staff. Given this fact, and the fact that I’m a sucker for a white wine I’ve never heard of, how could I not buy it? However, other wines from The Eyrie *are* available in SC. They don’t have a huge presence there, but they are available. And lemmee tell ya- their 2012 Willamette Pinot Noir deserves your attention. It has all the charm of the 2012 vintage, but is a tad more refined and shy than some of it’s “slutty” 2012 siblings.

Yeah, I said it.

Anyhow. This wine is just all kinds of fun. It is the perfect trifecta of the weird white; unrecognizable (to most people), difficult to pronounce (until someone tells you), and small-production. Booyah! So, I made myself a couple handy phonetic guides on the tasting sheet. Only problem was, once I got home, I couldn’t decipher them. So, after a quick consult with a fellow wine peep- its Chass-luh Door-ray. Like a Morey eel.

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So, little Chasselas is a varietal widely planted in Switzerland. The Swiss enjoy it with fondue, I’ve been told. I’ve never been a big fondue fan, but I can see this wine being a nice complement to a rich cheese. There is a vague suggestion of something nutty here, but mostly this wine just graces your palate with its presence… as they write in their tasting notes, its “ethereal.” Light citrus, fresh soap, soft minerality. Leaves your mouth feeling uplifted. This wine is sort of like a fairy. Like Thumbelina. Remember Thumbelina?! I didn’t until just now. This is why I love writing!

If tasted blind, I can see someone thinking this was a mild, unoaked Washington State Chardonnay, or maybe an Alsatian white. But there’s something extra-special about this one. You can tell it was treated carefully. Which is something that I think really stands out about The Eyrie wines in general. They’re a gift for the senses.

This wine really screams Summer in South Carolina to me. I know James and I and Bryan would’ve crushed this wine if given the opportunity. But, you can’t have them all. Having it now is enough for me.

Just for a laugh, check out all the names that Chasselas Doré also goes by, according to Wikipedia:

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what in the actual fuck?

One thing I did notice? Chasselas Noir is another word for Dolcetto. Remember how I just wrote about a a Dolcetto the other day? Maybe my brain was on some kinda wavelength that I didn’t even know about!

I purchased this wine at The Eyrie Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville for $27. 

Cheers, y’all!

Ponzi Dolcetto, 12 Willamette. PS I’m in Oregon.

Welcome to my first blog post from the state of Oregon! But first, a disclaimer to those that didn’t know I had relocated…

In the past, I’ve always blogged about wines that were available for purchase at Cellar on Greene in Columbia, SC, because that was where I worked! (duh). Now that I’m here, I want to continue to write, but I don’t want to alarm anyone or confuse any local Columbia readers when I write about wines that may not be available at Cellar. I loved using the blog as a platform to expose people to wines available at Cellar, and that was the original intention of starting this blog. And it served me (and you, I hope) well. But as I’ve entered a new phase, I hope that if you’re a Columbian, you’ll continue to read if for no other reason that you’ve grown fond of my writing and you love to read about new and different wines. But in an effort not to create work for Ricky, don’t expect everything I write about here to be available at Cellar, or for that matter, in South Carolina at all. I hope to bridge the gap, and will do what I can to assist. So sit back and hopefully enjoy this new ride I’m on!

So- TONIGHT! Ponzi Dolcetto! Purchased at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, OR for $25. Conveniently located just down the road from me. How awesome is that.

Dolcetto in Willamettte? Who knew!

Dolcetto in Willamettte? Who knew!

So, Dolcetto? Who woulda thunk. I thought I was all cool because I knew Ponzi made an Arneis (amazing Italian white varietal), but now I get here and discover this Dolcetto! I tasted it at the Dundee Bistro a few nights ago, really enjoyed it, and knew I’d be picking up a bottle at some point. Here’s the skinny on Dolcetto: most is found in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Some was brought to Cali by expat Italians (go figure!). This particular vineyard was planted in 1992 in the Chehalem Mountains AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Is there more Dolcetto to be found in Willamette Valley? Dunno! Yet, anyway. I’m only in the first week of discovery here.

deets, heard.

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So this wine is a 2012 vintage, and since it’s my first time having it, I can’t compare it to other vintages. BUT- I have to say, it’s freakin’ slammin. Not sure if they submit for scores or not, but I could see this scoring a solid 90 or 91. From someone important. If that’s important to you. Why’s it so good? 1.) it’s varietally correct. It reminds me of several Dolcetto d’Alba’s I came into contact with in the SC market. Perhaps a slightly higher price point, but with the production level on this one and relative scarcity, that’s to be understood. So 2.) it’s delicious, of course! A beautiful deep, vibrant purple/magenta with nice medium density. A nose of mulberry, blackberry, licorice, briar patch, and a nice streak of herbs- mint, maybe a touch of rosemary. With a sturdy tannic finish, I find this to be a perfect sipper. What would marry nicely with it? Braised lamb? Something wintery? Yes, I think so. This wine is robust, yet not in-your-face. Certainly best drunk within a few years of bottling, in my opinion. I’m into it.

Sadly, I’m almost 100% certain this wine is not available in SC. That just means you’re gonna have to get your tail to Oregon and visit the winery.

So, how am I? Is anyone curious? Now that I’ve had a glass of wine, I’ll share. Granted, it’s been less than a week, but it’s been a little up n’ down. Highs and lows. Highs? Realizing I can go wine tasting any time I want. Amazing scenery. Great people. Did I mention amazing scenery??

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Sunset at Belle Pente yesterday.

Sunset from my house tonight.

Sunset from my house tonight.

So, lows? Not having a job. YET, anyway. I do have leads, and I remain optimistic, but I pretty much hate not being employed. I like to work. It’s hard to feel like I’m getting in the groove when I don’t have any real “purpose” on a day to day or even hourly basis. But writing seems to make me feel more like “me”, so if anything else, that is a motivator to keep writing. Other lows? I do miss y’all. My Columbia peeps. I miss my constant slew of work-related texts. I miss Ricky Mollohan’s ass. I really do. It’s strange to not be able to talk to him about Homeland and The Blacklist spur of the moment. I hate that while I was driving here, Vincent Sheheen did NOT become the governor. I truly hate that for the state of South Carolina. I feel far away, and that’s a little hard to swallow. But at other moments, it feels amazing to be far away.

But I’m good. I got this.

Now go drink some wine! Cheers, y’all.