Tag Archives: grocery store wine

Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

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Arrowood Vineyards sits in a beautiful valley of Sonoma County along the two-lane Sonoma Highway. Such a quiet and wonderful  location that I had to take advantage of their cozy front porch and reflect on how lucky I was to be touring wine country. Wine-tasting through Sonoma County, from its mountains and valleys to the breathtaking coastline.

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Driving through Sonoma County.

 

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Arrowood Vineyards front porch with a new friend.

From Arrowood’s organic certified single vineyard varietals to sustainably farmed and certified gems throughout Sonoma, including this Knights Valley Cab, all left a mark not only on my palate but also my trip.

 

 

9 1 points -antonio galloni February 2016 “… superb. Raspberry jam, spice, scorched earth, rose petal, cloves and new leather are some of the signatures. Knights Valley is often noted for Graves-like sense of gravel-infused minerality, naturally allied to a California expression of fruit. That is exactly what readers will find.”

 

 

 

 

 

From Arrowood Vineyards;

Knights Valley Vineyards

Tucked into the foothills of Mount Saint Helena on the remote eastern edge of Sonoma County, Knights Valley experiences a moderated climate, offering a longer and later growing season that develops dark fruit aromatics.

 

 

My notes:

The first thing I noticed was how beautifully balanced this big Cab was on the nose. Earthiness, fruit and spice all coexisting with no one factor overwhelming the other. At the same time; gentle and subtle yet profound.

On the palate the the earthy spiciness [cedar, tobacco box, coffee, eucalyptus] were in the background with rich dark fruit at the front. With medium tannins the finish was spicy and herbal [eucalyptus/anise]. Balanced on the palate as well I would suggest decanting this gorgeously rich Cabernet.

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View from Arrowood Vineyards Porch towards Sonoma Hwy.

 

When I come up with a sentence that includes “gentle and subtle yet profound” you have to know I enjoyed this wine. I can say it left a mark. 

Would I recommend this wine? You bet. Would I buy this wine myself? Oh yeah.

 

In the $40.00 range, it is not an every day wine for most of my customers but it should definitely be on the radar for their holidays and special occasions. For those with a bigger wine budget the Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet is incredibly well priced and could easily be compared to other wines at twice the cost. Now excuse me as I start planning my next wine trip back to Sonoma or at the very least reliving my memories over a glass of wine. ¡SALUD!

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Arrowood Vineyards tasting room lobby.

 

 

Winemaker notes:

Our 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is bold with black forest fruit and spiced plum, offering undertones of roasted coffee and crushed rock. Caramel and anise come through on the palate accompanied by broad tannins and a rich and persistent finish.

 

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GUILTY! Yet Again – 19 Crimes

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This wine has legs, and I am not describing the usual wine reference. Yes, while it longingly coats your wine glass thanks to the alcohol level of about 14%, the longevity of 19 CRIMES on Whine and Cheers for Wine is admirable.  Hard to believe that I discovered this wine over two years ago as reported in GUILTY-19Crimes. In that time my original review has repeatedly made the daily Top visited list on Whine and Cheers. It is included below following this post.

Not having had it for a while and watching it continuously fly off our store shelves I decided it was time to revisit the most recent vintage of 19 CRIMES.  So excited was I that I forgot to notice the listed crime on the cork. Yes as many as you may know, each of the individual 19 crimes are listed on the cork. Turns out it was: #9 ASSAULT WITH INTENT TO ROB. Check out this short entertaining video and see how these “crimes” actually came to be:

The first thing I noticed on this new 2014 vintage was that it was lighter in body than I recalled. I would say on the light side of medium bodied. On the nose leather hit me first followed by red fruit [strawberry, raspberry] and an earthiness [think wet soil] as it opened. On the palate I detected a floral quality [violet] and red fruit [cherry] with cocoa and vanilla as it opened.

One thing didn’t change, three-quarters of the bottle disappeared before I knew what happened! 19 CRIMES continues to be an easy-drinker, a wine that can be paired well with many dishes. In fact maybe even more so now with its lighter body style. I will continue to recommend this wine to customers looking for a fruit forward blend, also those customers new to wine wanting to find their footing. Easy drinker? Check. Nicely balanced? Check. Good value? At under $13.00 you better believe it.  ¡SALUD!

photograph of imprisoned O'Reilly, 1866I recently had the pleasure of attending my first regional wine meeting for Whole Foods Market. We were introduced to hundreds of wines and given the opportunity to taste them all.  As you can imagine it was a bit difficult to differentiate the wines after the first 100 🙂  even though we were spitting and not swallowing. Luckily I took notes that I could actually read and this wine made the list.

Meet John Boyle O’Reilly [pictured at left] from the 19 CRIMES wine bottle label.  John along with others are featured via real mug shots on each bottle with the real crimes listed on each box/case of wine.

19 CRIMES WINE

The corks used in each bottle list the 19 CRIMES which could make things interesting for the cork collectors out there. I got #11 Counterfeiting The Copper Coin on my bottle. Crime #12 pictured here; BIGAMY.

From the 19 CRIMES website:

NINETEEN CRIMES turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of those crimes were sentenced to Australia rather than death.  This punishment by “transportation” began in 1788 and many of the lawless died at sea.  The rough-hewn prisoners that reached Australia lived in servitude under the lash. Pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick. This Shiraz Durif blend celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.

19 CRIMES wine

Soon after our regional meeting I brought in 10 cases to display in our Whole Foods Market North Miami wine department. Sales have been brisk and continue to increase as word spreads. The packaging is a big draw; frosted bottle, mug shots, historical facts. Also the sale price of $12.99 is a good price point for those willing to experiment on a new wine while maybe discovering  a new favorite.

Last night I decided to buy a bottle to make sure my somewhat blurred memory of this wine was correct.  Whew, luckily for me it was!  My notes:

Nose; rich red and dark fruit, plum, spice, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, tobacco, molasses.

Palate; vanilla, butterscotch/molasses, pepper, violet, licorice, red fruit finish.

Not included above is my better half’s descriptor of; cherry Popsicle stick. With my dumbfounded gaze he added; “you know, not the Popsicle itself but when you chew the stick afterwards”.  Adding; “if new tennis ball can can be used by others as a descriptor then I can use cherry Popsicle stick!”  There you have it, maybe a first, right here on Whine and Cheers for Wine. Come to think of it; red fruit, cherry, wood…he may be on to something!

This wine is an easy drinker and SMOOTH. Very well-balanced for a wine with 13-14% alcohol. It disappears before your very eyes. So yes, I will continue to recommend this nicely priced, well packaged southeastern Australian blend of Shiraz and Petite Sirah aka Durif.  Heck, I’ll continue to buy it myself!  ¡SALUD!

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #45 tikal Patriota 2012 Malbec Bonarda Blend

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TIKALtikal Patriota 2012 Malbec Bonarda

Once again I was excited to discover a recent 2014 WINE SPECTATOR Top 100 selection among our shelves at Whole Foods Market North Miami. This Ernesto Catena (the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata) wine had been selling briskly ever since I brought it in a few months ago but now that the word is out I am constantly refilling our shelves. Here’s hoping it continues to be available and does not sell out quickly as vinos tend to do once praised with this kind of attention. Luckily for us earlier vintages have also been rated in the 90+ range and deservedly so.

Ernesto Catena Vineyards info: Tikal is owned by Ernesto Catena and is named after his son. Ernesto spent his childhood in the vineyards of Mendoza among wine-growers and local pundits. Since then, he has experienced a kaleidoscope of cultures, living in New York, Buenos Aires, Berkeley, Cambridge (MA), Milan and London. But his heart remains in his homeland of Argentina (where he now lives), with its natural beauty of mountains, streams and vineyards, its wines, and its people who hold a special passion for living.

Luis Reginato is the winemaker at Tikal behind the 2012 vintage. He has been with TIKAL and the Catena family since 2002 overseeing various wine lines.  In the 10 plus years he has developed a reputation of having a Midas-touch producing wines consistently rated in the 90+ range.  Usually coming in under $25.00, I like the fact that these wines are not exaggeratedly priced. The Tikal Patriota can currently be found for $18-$23.00.

I have long been a fan of the Malbec and Bonarda varietals and am excited to see such blends increasing in the marketplace. Some even including Syrah. This one in particular comes in at 60% Malbec and 40% Bonarda from Vista Flores and La Vendimia Mendoza. Aged 12 months in 70% French and 30% American oak.

My notes included red fruit [strawberry, raspberry] on the nose along with vanilla spiciness. On the palate the fruit flavors turned darker [plum, blackberry], chocolate, with the oak spiciness and earthiness at mid-palate and beyond. For me I think this wine needed to age a bit in the bottle or decant for longer. Although I started to imbibe as soon as the cork was popped, I did not note a varied difference at the 1 hour mark. Unfortunately I was not able to give the wine more time to develop which I feel it would have. Did I enjoy it? Wholeheartedly yes.  Will I continue to recommend this wine and praise its accolades? Yes again. But, the next time I serve this wine you can bet it will be decanted for over an hour or if patience allows I’ll be drinking it 1-2 years from now when I believe it will be at its true peak. ¡SALUD!

 

Winemaker’s Notes

Deep reddish purple with aromas of bright berry/cherry fruit. Like swallowing a whole bowl of mixed ripe berries at once. Big body yet very balanced, with luscious layers of raspberry, cherry, and cocoa flavors. Just a hint of baking spice at the end brings it all together. Pairs well with grilled meats such as beef and pork, smoked ham, and even pizza with meat toppings. Incredibly fun to drink!

WS Tasting Note

Tikal Patriota 2012 is a blend of 60% Bonarda and 40% Malbec hand harvested with no fining and no filtering and aged 70% in French oak (40% new) and 30% in 2nd use American oak. This Argentine red offers intense layered flavors of raspberry, cherry, cocoa, with a hint of spice, full body and excellent balance with a long finish. “A rich red, packed with concentrated flavors of blackberry, dark plum and mocha, featuring plenty of dark chocolate notes. Offers a ripe texture, with creamy accents and hints of savory herb on the long finish.” -Wine Spectator (91 Points)

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

$5.00 Wine – Trader Joe’s

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The Miami area of Pinecrest recently added a Trader Joe’s to the discount grocery mix.  As a long time fan of Aldi markets [in Europe and USA] I was excited about this addition. Aldi and Trader Joe’s share a relation. Owned by 2 brothers the company was split into Aldi North and Aldi South in the 1960s. The Aldi store is more bargain style and Trader Joe’s goes more for the trendy audience.  Both specialize in private label items.

Unfortunately our Miami/Pinecrest store got off to a rough start due to its shortage of parking spaces for patrons. Many cars were towed during the first few weeks and quite honestly I do not know how the city permitted construction of this site with so little parking. That said, this small store [drug store size] was nicely decorated inside with aisles roomy enough to get around.  Since this is a “wine” review I will not bore you with the specifics of my comparison shopping.  But, a somewhat obvious disclaimer here is the fact that I work for Whole Foods Market. Many compare the two but the truth is they are very different.  I’d also like to add that I was an Aldi fan long before I ever dreamed of joining the WFM team.

Wine! I was very impressed with the size of their vino area, about eight times bigger than the wine areas of the Aldi’s I have frequented. The majority of the wines being exclusive or private labels for Trader Joe’s. All inexpensively priced.  Surprisingly the well-known wines they carry are priced the same or even higher than at Whole Foods and other local merchants.

The majority of my time in the store was of course spent in this area reviewing all they had to offer.  Should I buy an under $20 Chateauneuf du Pape or even a Barolo under $15.00?  In the spirit of this shopping excursion I decided to budget myself at a whopping $5.  Per bottle of course and somehow limited myself to only two.

First up is Puglia’s 2012 GRIFONE Primitivo labelled “From old vine Zinfandel”.  As regular readers probably know I am a big fan of Zinfandel a.k.a. Primitivo which would explain my grabbing this $4.99 bottle without thinking twice.

Later that night with company over and cork  popped, everyone truly enjoyed this wine.  Only one flaw; among Zinfandel fans no one could name the varietal including myself if I had not been the purchaser.  Is it an easy drinker? Heck yeah. Would I serve it again? Ditto! But this fruit forward, medium bodied, low tannin wine was very un-Zinfandel like. Spice? Earthiness? Peppery? All nowhere to be found.  I’ve read that the 2010 was a tad more rustic so my notes could be due to the 2012 vintage. Below are some other opinions I found:

From Cheap Wine Finder

The color is cherry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries with a little chocolate powder and spearmint chewing gum, This is a soft, smooth, medium bodied wine with a slight rough edge on the mid palate. It tastes of black cherry, a little tart cranberry and a touch of cola. The mid plate offers are a dusty slap form the tannins and a final dash of sweet strawberry.  The acidity is balanced and the finish is a little watery and fades a bit too soon.

From the Savy Lush

The taste of this Primitivo is fairly mild with notes of cherry and jammy spice. The nose isn’t anything special, and finish is rather fleeting but really, who cares?!? Easy drinking, smooth and pleasing, this is classic “Skank”. But, if you’re truly worried, make sure you have some dark chocolate on hand-never a bad idea.

So my final verdict would be: very drinkable, an easy drinker, great for large crowds [parties], excellent way to spend $5.00, just do not call it Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Next up we have a Sangiovese, one of Italy’s most planted grape varietals, from Tuscany. D’Aquino Gaetano Sangiovese di Toscana 2012.  D’Aquino, in this case is also the wine importers name.

The Sangiovese flavor profile usually includes; cherry, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and some herbaceousness.  Unfortunately I noted very few of these qualities.

My Notes: Light in color and body. Red fruit on nose, more so on palate but not much else. Fruity with a cherry finish.  Not much development as it opened, status-quo as time passed.

Winemaker notes:  This is a fruity, red wine made from the best-known grape varieties. It is brilliantly red with good intensity and has lively, fresh, and full-bodied taste. It is ideal for everyday drinking with most foods and in particular pasta dishes.

The D’Aquino was in no way poor but at the same time it did not have any personality. Not a wine you would look forward to having again but a vino that may actually fall into the $5 wine category. OUCH: Now that the developing wine snob in me let that slip out I must admit to having had wines much more expensive with the same issue. Drinkable? Sure. Would I buy it again? I have to admit I would most likely not.

I have plenty of friends that swear by the TJ private label product line.  As I was mentally planning my reviews a fellow blogger also posted about Trader Joe wines. Luckily wines that he had recently discovered and enjoyed. Check out Talk-A-Vino’s; Trader Joe’s Wines – Again Exceeding Expectations.

All said and done not bad for my investment of $4.99 times two. Would I try more TJ wines? Definitely.  Their reduced pricing structure is hard to refuse. Luckily for me this new store is not nearby.  Luckily for my bank account if it were I could do some damage $5 at a time.  ¡SALUD!

Celebrating Holidays or Better Yet Every Day!

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As this years Pumpkin displays turn to harvest motifs with cider, our in-store Halloween candy has changed over to chocolate turkeys and candy canes.

Celebrations are in the air and I have come to realize that the end of the year will soon be upon us.  Of course celebrating with libations shouldn’t only occur once or twice a year. I like to think I celebrate it all whether they be small accomplishments or BIG holidays.

For example just last week Whine and Cheers for Wine passed the 20,000+ visitor mark. This week the well-known California winemaker Michael Martini was nice enough to contact me after being directed to my review of his Louis M. Martini Napa Cabernet.  Yes it’s been a good few weeks and all good reasons to celebrate.

As I went back and reviewed last years holiday post, HARK! The Holidays Approacheth!! I came to realize how much has changed. 2012: I was a Wine Steward spreading my time between a grocery store wine department and their liquor store. 2013: I became a Wine Buyer or better yet a Specialty Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market. Regularly teaching classes and planning wine events. I’ve had opportunities to meet wine makers face to face and the good fortune to have my writings shared by wine companies and news agencies on their social media sites.  Yes it’s been a good couple of years; all good reasons to celebrate.

This year I’ve decided to let “the people” pick our top 10 wines for 2013 and the holiday season.  These are the wines that have garnered the most visits and searches at Whine and Cheers. We already know how I feel about these wines. Now you’ll know the wines the public is researching, buying and hopefully celebrating with.

Here you go in no particular order. The Whine and Cheers For Wine Top 10 of 2013 picked by the general wine public. I’ve averaged the top vote getters for the month, quarter and year. Giving a chance to recent reviews that have not had time to garner as many visits as a review posted 9 months ago.   Drum-roll please!!!

Dr Loosen Riesling Just what the Doctor ordered!

Kirkland Signature Bordeaux:  I guess there is something to be said about Costco wine…..

19 Crimes: GUILTY! Great marketing and tasty wine.

Dreaming Tree Crush: The Luck of the Blends. Steve Reeder and Dave Matthews ROCK!

Joel Gott Zinfandel: The 2011 vs. 2009 battle

Chateau Lafitte Marcellin: 2009 Cotes de Bordeaux. 2009 great vintage for Bordeaux.

Winking Owl Vineyards Shiraz: something to be said about Aldi and Trader Joe wines?

Pinot Noir Smackdown: Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Perfect holiday gift wine per the NBC Today Show

Louis M. Martini: 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Go Mike! Martini that is.

A baker’s dozen or runners-up would add these to the list:

Innovacion Torrontes Pinot Grigio Blend: by Argentina’s Santa Julia

HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon: Robertson Valley South Africa

Gran Valle de Niebla Reserve Pinot Noir: Chile

I am glad to see many countries represented on our list; Chile, Argentina, South Africa, USA, France, Australia and Germany!

Speaking of countries, these stats always amaze me, below are the TOP 12 traveling over to this here site for wine information, minus my own USA:

Canada FlagCanada
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom
Germany FlagGermany
Australia FlagAustralia
France FlagFrance
Spain FlagSpain
Philippines FlagPhilippines
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation
India FlagIndia
Mexico FlagMexico
Denmark FlagDenmark
Netherlands FlagNetherlands

So with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and New Years Eve around the corner, I wish and hope, that we not only are able to celebrate these obvious big events in our lives but also appreciate and recognize the day-to-day happenings. Events also meant to be shared and noted. All good reasons to celebrate!

¡SALUD! and Happy Holidays

GUILTY! – 19 Crimes

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photograph of imprisoned O'Reilly, 1866

I recently had the pleasure of attending my first regional wine meeting for Whole Foods Market. We were introduced to hundreds of wines and given the opportunity to taste them all.  As you can imagine it was a bit difficult to differentiate the wines after the first 100 🙂  even though we were spitting and not swallowing. Luckily I took notes that I could actually read and this wine made the list.

Meet John Boyle O’Reilly [pictured at left] from the 19 CRIMES wine bottle label.  John along with others are featured via real mug shots on each bottle with the real crimes listed on each box/case of wine.

19 CRIMES WINE

The corks used in each bottle list the 19 CRIMES which could make things interesting for the cork collectors out there. I got #11 Counterfeiting The Copper Coin on my bottle. Crime #12 pictured here; BIGAMY.

From the 19 CRIMES website:

NINETEEN CRIMES turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of those crimes were sentenced to Australia rather than death.  This punishment by “transportation” began in 1788 and many of the lawless died at sea.  The rough-hewn prisoners that reached Australia lived in servitude under the lash. Pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick. This Shiraz Durif blend celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.

19 CRIMES wine

Soon after our regional meeting I brought in 10 cases to display in our Whole Foods Market North Miami wine department. Sales have been brisk and continue to increase as word spreads. The packaging is a big draw; frosted bottle, mug shots, historical facts. Also the sale price of $12.99 is a good price point for those willing to experiment on a new wine while maybe discovering  a new favorite.

Last night I decided to buy a bottle to make sure my somewhat blurred memory of this wine was correct.  Whew, luckily for me it was!  My notes:

Nose; rich red and dark fruit, plum, spice, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, tobacco, molasses.

Palate; vanilla, butterscotch/molasses, pepper, violet, licorice, red fruit finish.

Not included above is my better half’s descriptor of; cherry Popsicle stick. With my dumbfounded gaze he added; “you know, not the Popsicle itself but when you chew the stick afterwards”.  Adding; “if new tennis ball can can be used by others as a descriptor then I can use cherry Popsicle stick!”  There you have it, maybe a first, right here on Whine and Cheers for Wine. Come to think of it; red fruit, cherry, wood…he may be on to something!

This wine is an easy drinker and SMOOTH. Very well-balanced for a wine with 13-14% alcohol. It disappears before your very eyes. So yes, I will continue to recommend this nicely priced, well packaged southeastern Australian blend of Shiraz and Petite Sirah aka Durif.  Heck, I’ll continue to buy it myself!  ¡SALUD!