“The Asian Highlands Exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo” Shooting Star Barbera 2016


Yesterday was the last day of school with students. I had a lot of nice moments, but left work completely and utterly exhausted from yet another productive day. As Sonja and I had agreed upon, I hurried home so that together we could go pick up the kids and go see the new Asian Highlands exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo. All day I got the sense that Sonja was pretty jazzed about this.


We grabbed the kids, who were elated to learn we were going to the zoo, and we struck out. At four o’clock on a Friday, with nearly a hundred degrees of heat and rain threatening, the zoo was pretty relaxed. We got right to our destination without any lines or congestion. “Titus,” I asked, loading him into the stroller. “Do you want to see the red panda?”

“No,” he replied. “I wanna see the elephants.”

Knowing that the elephants were on the other side of the zoo and that, given our short window before dinner, this was both a dichotomy and a battle I had to win, I changed tactics slightly. (Read: I started lying.)

“Well, the red panda told me she wants to see you. She’s really excited to meet you and be your friend,” I told him. He considered this for a moment, then acquiesced to meeting the red panda. Soon thereafter, I realized that a red panda is pretty much a big red raccoon. It was cool to see one, all the same.


After the red panda, we meandered into the rest of the exhibit. It isn’t finished yet, with lots of winding paths blocked off and “coming in 2019” written on the signage. What we did see though was really terrific, and included several species of funky deer and, especially swell, the rhinoceros, which seemed to be enjoying the hot day.


Given the heat, we went home shortly thereafter. Baron and Travis came over and I threw some burgers and the corn they brought on the grill, along with some foil full of mushrooms.  We all talked about work and life and kids and all of the things that as a kid I didn’t understand why grownups talked so much about, and then we sat down to dinner together. Sonja had made a really good garlic, parsley, and chic-pea salad, and the thick cuts of onion and tomato gave the burgers terrific texture and flavor. Exhausted but enjoying myself, it was a pretty perfect Friday afternoon.

In one hundred degrees, I usually go white wine or beer, and in fact I happily sipped at an ice cold Coors Light while grilling, but I felt like our meal deserved a red wine, and I thought also that I had a good option. I grabbed a bottle I knew was promising, along with four wine glasses, and we set aside our cold beers to enjoy red wine with our red meat at dinner.


The 2016 Barbera from Jed Steele’s Shooting Star label is, in a word, smooth. Pleasant notes imparted by ten months in combined American and Hungarian oak yield a pleasant smokiness and some degree of complexity, while a reasonable 14.2% ABV lends itself to a more relaxed nature for the wine. Flavors of mature red fruits and a slight hint of vanilla round out the flavor profile, while the Lake Country fruit is priced reasonably enough that this bottle retails for a mere $15, giving it a strong QPR in my estimation. The fruit is sourced from the Dorn Vineyard and the Shannon Ridge Vineyard, both overlooking Clear Lake in Lake County, and combined with Jed Steele’s fifty years of winemaking expertise, this wine reminded me of why Sonja and I first fell in love with this varietal so many years ago.


Little Zooey relaxed for a bit at the table with us before wanting down so she could go play with her brother. Eventually, as twilight set in, we put the kids to bed and I talked everyone into a round of Cards Agains Humanity, which is easily my favorite way to end an evening. In case anyone geeks out about it as much as I do, I was given the green expansion pack for my birthday by two close friends, and we used it for the first time last night. So much fun — there’s just nothing quite as a great as a good belly laugh, is there? Okay, maybe a good Barbera. I’m so excited for the weekend — and for the advent of summer! I hope you have a good one as well.

Cheers to bringing the weekend in right,





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