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Thanksgiving is now officially in the rear view mirror.  I had an enjoyable trip down to San Diego to visit with my family and my wife’s family.  Of course, I could do without the 8 hour plus drive both ways.  What can you do though – and no flying wasn’t an option.  The drive down was worse than the drive up as we decided to stop for dinner which added another hour and 45 minutes to the drive.  The restaurant in Paso Robles we planned to eat at was closed.  We turned to Yelp for help which was a mistake.  Finally, we settled on place only to have it operating at what seemed like a snails pace.  Next thing we know it’s 8 o’clock and we are just getting back on the road.  All that being said, the drive was worth it.  It was nice and sunny in San Diego even if the mornings started off quite chilly (low 30’s).

Both Thanksgiving meals we participated in were wonderful.  The food was great and the wine I brought down did the trick.  With the in-laws, I cracked open a few different bottles.  The Copain Pinot Noir seemed to be a hit.  Amazing how well Pinot pairs with turkey and the trimmings.  After dinner we enjoyed and darker and fruitier Shiraz from Australia.  At my parents house, I sampled some craft beers with my brother before the meal and opened a 2005 Copain Les Copain James Berry Vineyard.  Yes, I do drink my share of Copain Wines made by the critically acclaimed winemaker Well Gunthrie.    Uncorked Ventures has shipped a couple different Copain wines over the last year with lots of good feedback from our wine club members.  Back to the Les Copain which is wonderful wine made from one of California’s top vineyards.  In fact, this vineyard which is owned by Saxum Winery produced this year’s #1 wine according to Wine Spectator.

After a few days of family and relaxation in San Diego, we headed back home to the Bay Area.  Fortunately the night we arrived home our good friends and neighbors had us over for dinner.  Abalone fritters and abalone steaks.  Good living for sure, especially when it was paired with a Rhone-styled white from Paso Robles.   Fresh abalone is a gift from nature for sure.  Just glad to have a good friend who is an accomplished abalone diver.  Needless to say, I slept great Saturday night having eaten well combined with the comforts of my own home.

So you would think that come Sunday, I would be anything but focused on food and wine.  Wrong.  After getting the Christmas tree up and lights up outside I decided another good meal was necessary.  Enter prime steaks, grilled asparagus, fresh baked bread, and a bottle of 2005 Saxum Heart Stone.  Yes, I said Saxum.  Saxum Winery has been on a tear these last few years.  Wine critics have been lauding the work of Justin Smith, owner and winemaker.  The mailing list had grown and now the waiting lists extends a couple miles.  Hopefully the press that comes with Wine Spectator awarding one of their wines the #1 rating for 2010 doesn’t send the winery over the edge which has unfortunately happened to a few other wineries of the past.  One could argue that the hype has been building for a while and that Robert Parker’s rating of 100 points (aka perfect) for the 2007 James Berry had already kicked things into high gear.  Hopefully the winery will keep prices close to what they have been.  Of course all of this was neither here nor there on Sunday night.  Once I removed a good portion of the wax overlay, I popped the cork and prepared for something special.  The wine did not disappoint.  Out the gate the dark fruit flavors and aromas jumped out of the glass.  At first the flavors seemed a bit jumbled up, but with a bit of air everything calmed down.  A “Wow” was uttered from my wife.  Yes, this wine was seriously good as the tannins were well integrated and while this wine is on the higher end of the alcohol scale – it was not hot or jammy.  It was damn good.  Not a bad way to cap the holiday week.

Fast forward to today.  Some new wine club orders had come in overnight.  Always good to wake up and see those e-mail notifications.  Feeling good, I decided it was finally the day to ditch the 1998 style cell and officially join 2010 by purchasing a smart phone.  Enter my new best friend, the HTC 4-G My Touch.  How did I have enough self regulation to let my contract expire and not jump into this earlier.  All I can say is that it took some serious self control.  With a couple business functions scheduled at the end of this week, its good to know that I will have the pocket office with me.  Amazing how powerful these devices have become.  Time will tell if it makes me more efficient.  For now, I know it will make my life a bit easier.

Ok – plenty more ramblings to come, but I will call it quits for now.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

With the holidays upon us, I would be remiss to not suggest that you consider Uncorked Ventures for your hard to buy for relatives or friends or even yourself.  We have been getting lots of praise on our shipments.  Just a couple months back we shipped the #6 wine for 2010 according to Wine Spectator.  The 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot was and is delicious.  Too bad we can’t get our hands on any more of that.  just wait to see what we have planned for our next few shipment.

Take care.

 

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It’s Saturday about noon,  I just got home from picking up some South African Sauvignon Blanc from an importer here in the bay area.  Took the family with me on this errand and added a stop at a park in a community a little south of where we live.  The park was relaxing as the kids were not fighting and really enjoyed being outside.  The weather is just perfect, around 70 degrees, with a slight breeze.  Even though I was raised in San Diego, I don’t have a particular fondness for it being too warm.  High 60s to low 70s seems ideal to me now.

I have some yard work ahead today, as the lawn needs to be mowed and some plants need to be trimmed.  I never thought of myself as much of gardener, but the front and back yards are quite respectable even with the dandelions.  Spending a couple to a few hours in the yard every other week (or weekly during late spring and summer) has turned out to be good therapy.  Back when I was working my corporate job, gardening provided a nice release.  It provided real time satisfaction.  You mow the lawn or trim a tree or even weed a little and you can take a few steps back and see the fruit of your labor.  Much different than projects at work that can last months and seemingly have little impact.  Beyond a bit of gardening today, I will turn my attention to tonight’s meal.  I was originally planning on making calzones, but with the weather being so perfect I won’t be able to resist firing up the weber grill.

I just love this time of year as you can spend so much time in the back yard just hanging out.  I will typically bbq once if not twice a week during the late spring and summer months.  As bbq seasons ramps up, so does my focus on finding wines that go well with the spicy and smoky fair that finds it way on to our plates.  Right now, I am in love with the 2007 Kaena Hale.  This a wine that has been shipped to a number our wine club members already.  Kaena wines are crafted by Mikael Sigouin, who is the winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos – Santa Barbara County.  The 2007 Hale is 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.  Very approachable, delicious,  and food friendly.  At $18 this is a great house wine for the summer and will complement most anything coming off the grill.  With only 300 cases produced, this wine will be gone before summer is over.  While I love the Hale, I am still on hunt for some other great bbq wines.  Stay tuned to see what I track down next.

Well, I should get to lunch and the garden.  I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.  Uncorked Ventures would like to give a nod to our fallen soldiers and their families.  We appreciate the sacrifice you have made on our behalf.

Take care.

Mark and I are visiting wineries on the California Central coast this week.    With Napa Valley Premier happening this week, it seemed to be a good week to head south to avoid the crowds and expand our contacts in another important wine-producing region.  As you may recall, I spent a week this past summer on the central coast as part of a family vacation + business trip.  Needless to say, it is good to be back.

Our first appointment was Tuesday afternoon with the folks at Alta Colina.  I visited this same winery on my previous trip, but this visit gave me an opportunity to retry a number of their wines to see how they have developed in the bottle and determine if we should include a bottle in an upcoming wine club shipment.  I was not disappointed.  Ok, I take that back.  I was disappointed, they had sold out of their Petite Sirah which was my favorite from the previous syrah.  Both the GSM and Syrah came across and quite a bit more evolved than they were on my previous visit.  The standout of this last tasting was their Old 900 Syrah which comes from a particular block in their vineyard.  Thanks again to Maggie at Alta Colina for our tasting and for taking us up to their vineyards which sits around 1800 ft which is some of the highest vineyards in Paso Robles.

From Alta Colina we headed to our second appointment of the day where we had a chance to taste through the wines of three wineries.  Tasting through approximately 20 wines isn’t as fun as one might think.  You really have to pay attention and take good notes or the wines will just start to run together.  That being said, it was a great tasting as I would have been happy taking home a majority of the wines.  My expectations were more than met.  Frankly, I was surprised in how many of these  left an impression.  To me this is a testament to the winemakers’ talent, but also how far Paso Robles’ wines have really come.  Just 10 or 15 years ago this tasting would not have been such a great experience.  More to come on who we tasted with and how they may be finding their way into an upcoming shipment.  Regardless, Mark and I will be swinging back through Paso and Thursday on our way back up to the Bay Area and I already know we will be swinging by to pick up some of these special wines.

After we wrapped up our tasting around 6:15, we headed south to Pismo Beach which is our base camp for this trip.  Dinner was relaxed as we picked up some bbq, headed back to the room for some TV and e-mail time, and of course a couple glasses of Paso Robles’ finest.  We opted to avoid the “free” glass of wine at the hotel bar which was a great decision based on what they were pouring.

Today, we head further south for several appointments in Santa Barbara county.  It will be interesting to taste the impact of the cooler climate.  Often you get the darker fruit flavors coming out of Santa Barbara which I look forward to sampling.

I hope you have a great day, as I know I will.  Hard not to have a good day with the sun shining and central coast wineries to visit.

Take care.

IMG_7637-1Last Thursday Morning, August 13th, Mark and I visited the Copain tasting room in Healdsburg.  This was my first trip to the Copain property which is quite beautiful.

We arrived at 10am, excited to get started, as I had been talking up Copain for sometime to Mark. I have been drinking Copain wines for a few years now and have been on their mailing list for maybe the last three years.  Needless to say, I am a fan.  In July, I had the opportunity to meet Wells Gunthrie, Copain’s winemaker and co-founder at a tasting in San Francisco.  From my brief interaction with Wells, I gleened how passionate he is about the wines he makes and how they represent distinctive vineyards.  In short, he is just the type of winemaker with whom Uncorked Ventures wants to create a partnership.

IMG_7634-1Upon arriving at the tasting room we were greeted by Juliana, Copain’s Hospitality and Wine Education Manager.  Juliana made us feel welcome and let us know that she was all set to give us a bit of an extended tasting.  According to my notes we tasted through ten different wines.  Four Appellations Series (aka Tous Ensemble) wines were poured with the remaining six wines coming from the more expensive and allocated Vineyard Designate Series.  While you might think this is the full offering from Copain, it isn’t.  Several more Vineyard Designate wines are crafted by the Copain team. The wines we tasted included:

  • 2008 Toues Ensemble Viogner, Mendocino County
  • 2008 Touse Ensemble Rose, Anderson Valley
  • 2007 Touse Ensemble Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
  • 2007 Tous Ensemble Syrah, Mendocino County
  • 2007 James Berry Roussanne, Paso Robles
  • 2006 James Berry Les Copain, Paso Robles
  • 2006 Thompson Syrah, Santa Barbara County
  • 2006 Les Voisins Syrah, McDowell Valley
  • 2007 Harrison Clarke Syrah, San Ynez Valley
  • 2007 Monument Tree Pinot Noir

From our tasting a few things still stand out.  First, the wines we tasted are well crafted, not overly manipulated.  Sec0nd, the wines from the Appellation Series don’t come across as wines made as an afterthought.  In particular, the Tous Ensemble Syrah is a seriously good wine at a very reasonable price.  Third, the three syrahs we tasted gave us a good lesson in terrior as the flavor profile of each had something different to offer.  Forth, the James Berry vineyard kicks butt.  My favorite wine of the tasting was the James Berry Les Copain.  I couldn’t even get one of my bottles home that day as we opened it with dinner at The Girl and The Fig in Sonoma that evening.  Mark’s favorite wine of our tasting was the Monument Tree Pinot.

Our tasting lasted nearly two and a half hours.  Of course we could have completed the tasting in a much shorter time period, but the team at Copain made us feel very comfortable.  Not only did Julianna spend a good deal of time with us, so did John, Copain’s assistant winemaker, as well as Jennifer, Copain’s Director of Sales.  Each offered us a bit more insight into the wines we were tasting,  as well as their own take on Copain as a winery and what they are about. 

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Mark, Jennifer, Juliana, Matt

We look forward to developing what we hope will be a long relationship with Copain Wines.  In the meantime, we continue to gear up for a September Wine Club shipment and encourage you to sign-up on our interest list.

Take care.

A former co-worker of mine used to say, “Sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up.”  This past week I definitely slowed down and feel like I got myself in better position to accelerate some of opportunities that are unfolding for Uncorked Ventures.
 
It’s Sunday morning and I am sipping on my cup of Peets coffee.  It’ is French roast which means it’s dark and fortunately for me it is still nice and hot. I am beginning to wake-up.
 
Sunset in Cayucos

Sunset in Cayucos

Yesterday, I downloaded the pictures from my vacation in Cayucos which also included a few excursions into the Paso Robles wine country.  The picture to left was taken Wednesday evening from the pier in Cayucos and is one of my favorites from the trip.  The central coast and its wine country are truly beautiful and I feel fortunate to have just spent a week there with my extended family.

 
Prior to taking the trip, I was a bit hesitant though.  Having  just pushed the go button on starting Uncorked Ventures , I thought taking time away from all the activities that need to get done wouldn’t be fair to my business partner who is also my brother-in-law. Well as it turns out, I was completely wrong as the vacation turned out to be very fruitful for our emerging company.  Yes, there were the trips to Paso Robles wineries which were very fruitful, but more than that was the opportunity to just unwind and clear my mind.  Additionally, this trip reminded me that it is important to focus on living life not just existing which is also why Mark and I have gone into business together.
 
I do want to thank the various wineries I visited while on vacation for their hospitality.  In particular I enjoyed my visits to Linne Calado, Ecluse, Atla Colina, and Caliza.  Caliza was my last stop as we headed out of town and back to the bay area Friday morning.  Caliza Winery is located off Anderson Road in the Templeton Gap area of West Paso Robles. They are located near L’Aventure Winery as well Booker Vineyards and Torrin Vineyards.  We were greeted by Pam just as the tasting room opened at 11am.  I also met her husband and co-owner Carl, who is the winemaker.  Both Pam and Carl were very delightful as they shared some of their thoughts about their winery and the Paso Robles wine community.  In turns out that just a few years ago they lived not more than 3 or 4 miles from my house.  Although Caliza has just come onto the Paso Robles scene, it produces some top flight wine with production currently around 1,000 cases.  Of particular interest to me where their three reds:
  • 2006 Azimuth (51% Syrah, 19%  Grenache, 14% Mourvedre, 8% Tannat, 8% Alicante Bouschet)
  • 2006 Companion (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Tannat)
  • 2006 Syrah (100% Syrah)
IMG_7419Each wine is worthy of purchasing multiple bottles.  After some internal debate, I opted to purchase a few bottles of the 2006 Syrah as it seemed just a bit more special.  This wine also bucked the trend of a lot of Paso Robles wines in that it isn’t a blend.  I am glad I visited Pam and Carl at Caliza and hopefully look forward to creating a partnership with them and Uncorked Ventures.  Working with these small family wineries, helping them get their wines out in the marketplace to wine drinkers who will truly appreciate them really is really motivating for me.
 
As we loaded up our last wine purchase for this trip and said good-bye to the central coast and Paso Robles I felt content.  The week with family had gone very well.  The new relationships I am building in Paso Robles will help fuel Uncorked Ventures success going forward.  As we cruised north on 101 heading back to the bay area, my thoughts began to focus on the next couple weeks of activities for our business.  Fortunately, our interactions with the wineries have been wildly successful and I feel that we will have a pipeline of great wine to offer to our customers.  We will look to bolster that pipeline further as we meet with several wineries in Napa in a couple weeks.  In the meantime, we will continue to focus our attention on growing our own customer base for the wine clubs and getting things place to begin exporting wines to Central and South America in the first half of 2009.
 
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 Take care.
 

The last couple days on the central coast and visiting Paso Robles have been both relaxing and invigorating.  The relaxation spawns from several things including; listening to the waves break just 100 yds or so from where I am staying, eating good food, drinking good wine, and just hanging out with the family.  Today we headed north of Cayucos and played tourist by visiting Hearst Castle  and then we headed up to one of the beaches where the elephant seals congregate.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk in Cayucos and found myself at The Brown Butter Cookie Company.  What a  gem.  Within a minute of walking in the door we were offered samples of the various cookies by Christa, one of the two sisters whom co-own this great establishment.  Christa was very charming, answering all of our questions and sharing her enthusiasm for her new business which just sprung to life this past January.  So far things are going well for The Brown Butter Cookie Company as they have been mentioned in Gourmet magazine and orders continue to climb.  It was great to spend time with another small, family business owner who is focused on delivering a high quality product to her customers and generally loves what she is doing.  Her passion and excitement and the taste of those cookies is quite addictive.

IMG_7194Rewind back to Monday and I was off to Paso Robles for some more wine tastings.  First up was Ecluse which is located on Killer Canyon Road a bit off the beaten path.  Steve Lock, the owner, greeted us along with two of his rescue dogs.  While the Ecluse tasting room may not make it into Architectural Digest, the wines where worth the visit.  Of the several wines poured, I most enjoyed the 2005 Syrah, Lock Vineyard as well as the 2006 Rendition which s is a blend of Syrah (59%) , Grenache (22%) , and Mouvedre (19%).  Both of these wines would make for good offerings within our Special Elections wine club. 

From Ecluse, I headed into downtown Paso Robles for a lunch at Artisan.  Everything at lunch was good.  I shared the poached shrimp club with my sister and sampled my wife’s fettuccine with prawns, arugula, lemon, and chile de arbol.  The atmosphere and staff at Artisan compliment the fine food quite well.

From lunch I continued on to Alta Colina Winery where Maggie greeted us.  Alta Colina is an up and coming winery who has released its first wines this year.  Production is tiny this year, as they are selling a good portion of their grapes to other local wineries.  I suspect that as their wines begin to take hold in the marketplace production will increase which is a good thing based on what I tasted.  Two of Alta Colina’s wines appealed to me.  The 2007 Old 900 Syrah and the 2007 Ann’s Petite Sirah were quite delicious.  Both wines will likely get better in the coming years as their vines mature.  Ultimately, I choose to bring a couple bottles of Petite Sirah home with me, but would have been just as happy to have the Old 900.  Congratulations to Alta Colina on their first offerings.

Having spent time at these two wineries and a special cookie company these last two days, I am invigorated.  These small operations are turning out very good offerings and their customers are truly enjoying the fruits of their owners’ labor.  As Uncorked Ventures  prepares for our fall wine club shipments, we will continue to focus on identifying and delivering top notch wines to our customers.

Take care.

 
 

 

Pier at Cayucos

Pier at Cayucos

Day three of the family vacation and everyone is still alive.  We have all vacationed together before, but the previous times have all included international travel and a lot more sightseeing.  This vacation is a lot more “chill”, which translates to us spending a heck of a lot more time together than on our previous vacations.  With less to see, we are just hanging out at the house or beach with an occasional adventure taken to another local seaside town.  All the cousins are enjoying the extended time together and the parents and grandparents are holding up just fine.

IMG_7124Yesterday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday.  Nothing too extravagant, but we did manage to have a good dinner.  In total, we ended up bbq’ing 6 racks of ribs.  I prepared 3 racks my usual way, which includes about one and half hours to two hours of smoking, with bbq sauce only being applied during the last 20 minutes or so.  My brother opted to bake his ribs for a couple hours and then finish them on the grill.  Both styles had something going for them. Of course, I preferred my ribs as they had significantly more smoke flavor.  In my book, smoke flavor = delicious.  We also served cornbread and a green salad.  It was not a white table cloth type of dinner,  but it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time given with whom I was breaking bread.

While my family isn’t big on wine, I still managed to open up a 2006 Juvenile Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars.   I really enjoyed the zinfandel with the ribs and their slight char.  The wine also worked well with the birthday cake, chocolate on chocolate. 

Tomorrow, I will head back up to Paso Robles and/or Templeton for some more tasting.  I have scheduled one appointment in the afternoon and will probably drop in on one or two other wineries.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I enjoy tasting wines at wineries and getting to know the staff.  These tasting aren’t too clinical, but they do give me a good sense of the quality of what is being offered.  I look forward to what I will uncover tomorrow.  More to come …

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your weekend as I am.  I have squeezed in a bit of work this weekend as my business partner in Uncorked Ventures and I are beginning to discuss our next trip to Napa in few weeks.  Our plan is to have three or four meetings set up with wineries we would like to partner with regarding our wine clubs and export services.  If you have any particular wineries you would like to see us partner with, just drop us a note.

Take care.

On Friday, we departed the bay area for the California central coast.  My family and I will be spending a week with my brother and his family, my sister, and my parents.  We have rented a home in Cayucos about a block from the beach. Why Cayucos you may ask, well it is situated about half-way between the bay area (were we live) and San Diego (where everyone else lives) .  Cayucos is a tiny little town situated right on the coast and is only about 15 minutes from San Luis Obispo or 30 – 45 minutes from Paso Robles.

The drive down to Paso Robles was smooth, although we did see a few too many Highway Patrol cars for my taste.  We ended up leaving the bay area a little later than planned which had us rolling into Paso Robles around 1:30pm.  We parked downtown just a few blocks of the main square.  After a few minutes of searching for a place to eat, we ended up selecting Thomas Hill Market Bistro and Wine Bar

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This little bistro was just right for us. The food was delicious and the setting was relaxing as we choose to eat out in the courtyard patio which will lead you into several other local shops if you like.  I had the grilled sockeye salmon salad with a glass of pinot grigio which was perfect on a warm Paso Robles afternoon.  The rest of the family ordered the chicken breast sandwich that came with smoked applewood bacon, apple and fresh mozzarella.  I managed to score a bite of sandwich and would have been happy ordering that as well.  My wife was impressed with how fresh and delicious the fruits were.  It turns out the owner of the restaurant also has their own small family run organic farm from which they also sell baskets of fruits and vegetables to individuals who subscribe to the weekly program.

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After lunch we headed to the town square for a stroll.  While it was warm, there was plenty of shade to be found under some of the well established trees.  After a few minutes of walking around I headed over to Edward Sellers  as I wanted to make their acquaintance and taste some of their current offerings.  Their wine is fairly priced and easy to drink.  My favorite of the few wines I tasted was the 2006 Syrah Selectionee.  It had good fruit and a nice finish to it. I enjoyed speaking with Kendall, who walked me through the wines and filled me in on whats going on at the winery.  Edward Sellers is another winery Uncorked Ventures would like to partner with going forward.

 

From downtown Robles we headed west on 46 until we reached Vineyard Road where made a right and another quick right.  We had arrived at Linne Calodo Winery.  I had been planning on coming here for several weeks and knew I would not be disappointed.

IMG_7103As we were trying to locate the tasting room one of the winery staff was kind enough to point us in the right direction and follow us into the building.  As it turns out, the staff member happened to be Matt Trevisan, who actually is the winemaker and owner.  We talked with him at length about his winery, the wine he makes, and other wine and non-wine related topics.  It turns out that Matt lived not to far from where I grew up in San Diego.  As they say, it truly is a small world. 

The wines that Matt and his staff were pouring on Friday afternoon included: 2006 Outsider, 2007 Problem Child, 2007 Sticks and Stones, and the 2006 Nemesis.  I would have liked to acquire multiple bottles of each for my cellar, but ended up purchasing a couple bottles of the 2007 Problem Child (72% Zin, 16% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre).  Linne Calodo represents some of the best of what Paso Robles has to offer, but unfortunately in limited quantities.

From Linne Calodo we headed over to Turly Wine Cellars  which is just on the other side of the 46.  I have been on the mailing list of Turley for a few years now.  I generally order my full allocation and enjoy sharing this wine with several of my friends.  Turley is not for everyone as they produce very big wines.  Some find their wines too high in alcohol or too jammy.  I happen to be a fan and believe some of their offerings are world class.  There are several bottles of Turley in my cellar which I look forward to consuming over the coming years.  Given the day was getting long, Turley represented our last winery.

From Turley we continued west on 46 and then found our way through a  bit of the back country hills until we arrived at Cayucos which is where I am now.  I look forward to this next week with my family.  Fortunately we all get along as do all the little and not so little cousins.  It is great to spend time together eating, drinking, and just catching up over a game of cribbage or walk on the beach.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend too.

Take care.

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