A Surprising Evening of German and American Wines

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

Tis currently the season when beer usually receives way more attention in Germany than wine.  But living in Northern Germany, I’ve managed to tune out Oktoberfest this year and instead hosted a small wine evening — the first official gathering in my new apartment.  The theme of the evening was a comparison of German and American wines, so I invited a nice group of German and American friends over, along with a couple of other nationalities to keep things interesting!

For the event, Ludwig von Kapff sent over this fantastic selection of German and American reds and whites…*

German Wines
Markus Molitor Blauschiefer, Franz Keller Spätburgunder, and Metzger Prachtstück (also featured during my wine tasting with the Nordblogger)
German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed
Hess Chardonnay, Hess Cabernet Sauvignon, and Fetzer Zinfandel

In total, there were two German white wines — a Riesling and a Chardonnay/Weißburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) mix — and one German red — a Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir).  Personally, I’ve always found Germany’s Spätburgunder wines to be my favorites, but I kept my mind open for the evening!  The American wines consisted of one white — a Chardonnay — and two reds — a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah mix and a Zinfandel.

Anticipating that the actual wine tasting might get a little lost as the evening wore on, I created a placeholder for each wine with some important information, like: key tasting notes, grape sorts, vineyard, awards, and so on.

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

Without a doubt, there are plenty of differences between American and German wines.  Growing up near Washington State’s own wine country, I somehow arrived at the perception that European wines are more sophisticated and refined, while American wines are more innovative and bold.  This might have to do with typical American preferences for a flavorful wine that can be enjoyed on its own, as compared to a more European preference for a subdued wine to complement a meal.  It also seemed to me that Americans as opposed to Europeans were typically more than happy to experiment with wines from less traditional regions of the world, like South Africa, Chile, and Australia.  These are huge generalizations, for sure, which I wanted to put up for discussion.

An Argentinean friend with an admitted bias towards Argentinean Malbecs, said if he was going to drink a white wine, he wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a German Rieslings, even in Argentina.  For him, it’s about recognizing the strengths of countries’ wine regions.  One of the most surprising insights of the evening was the professed love of some of my German friends for Californian wines — indeed, you might even call it a guilty pleasure!  Why so?  With all of the outstanding German and European wines at their fingertips, the ecological footprint left by shipping wines from the US to Germany may indeed induce a bit of guilt among the eco-conscious.  While the environmental consciousness of Germans in general has always impressed me and doesn’t come as any surprise, I was quite happy to have my wine preconceptions blown away by my Californian-wine-loving German friends!

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

German and American Wines | No Apathy Allowed

With that said, perhaps the clear winner of the evening will come as less of surprise?  The Fetzer Zinfandel — brand new to Ludwig von Kapff’s selection of wines — was a definite crowd pleaser.  Hailing from California, this full-bodied wine boasts a strong note of dark berries and slight hints of spice and black pepper.   Earning them bonus points in my book, the Fetzter vineyards pride themselves on starting a “winemaking revolution” and are committed to environmentally sustainable practices in wine production.  Maybe that will help take some of the edge off of that guilty pleasure? :)

All in the all, it was an outstanding evening full of conversation with great wine and even better friends!

* Many thanks to Ludwig von Kapff for providing the wine for this evening, and to my friends for sharing their thoughts on wine. There are no affiliate links in this post. *

Urban Jungle Bloggers | Plants & Art

It’s officially been two months since I’ve moved into my new apartment.  The dust has definitely settled and everything has more or less found its place.  While I still owe you the “after” post to match the empty “before” one, first I thought I’d offer you a sneak peek in the form of this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers challenge — plants and art.

For my birthday I received some gorgeous plants which help make my apartment warm and inviting.  One of them was supposed to go to my office, but I gotten way too attached and have kept them both at home. :)

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants & Art | No Apathy Allowed
Sleater-Kinney influenced dining table

One of the benefits of finally having my own place is that I have plenty of space to hang up all my art and prints, both old and new.  One of my new prints (above) is a silkscreen from Sleater-Kinney’s show in Berlin not too long ago, kicking off their European tour.  I love how all the green leaves make the colors in the print just pop!  Below I’ve paired another birthday plant with two older pieces of art that I’ve had seemingly forever: a painting from my trip to Nicaragua in 1998 and a gorgeous map of Uganda that I bought while I lived there in 1999.

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants & Art | No Apathy Allowed
On the bookshelf

I don’t want to give away too much of the apartment just yet, but I hope these two photos give you a good idea of how my plants and my art just naturally pair together.  Curious to see what other Urban Jungle Bloggers have to share?  Check them out here...


Klavierabend | An Evening at Musikfest Bremen

Musikfest Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
Eine große Nachtmusik: the opening night of Musikfest Bremen. Photo by (c) Musikfest Bremen – fotoetage.

When I lived in New York I went through a long phase where I attended classical concerts at Carnegie Hall at least a couple times a month throughout the entire concert season.  So I find it highly ironic that since moving to Germany, the birthplace of some of the greatest classical composers in history, I’ve only been to a handful of classical concerts at most.  I was quite happy to remedy that situation during Musikfest Bremen — a three-week long music festival celebrating its 25th anniversary and featuring performers from around the world, big names as well as the rising stars of everything from jazz to classical, from world music to opera.

Die Glocke: Klavierabend Musikefest Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
Die Glocke

Just a few nights after the festival kicked off, I attended a fantastic concert by the famed pianist, Sir András Schiff at Bremen’s Art Deco concert hall Die Glocke.  As we arrived, normally casual Bremer were dressed to the nines and streaming into the concert hall.  The Großer Saal was completely packed. Of course photos weren’t allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that our seats in the 11th row offered the perfect view of Schiff’s hands as they graced the keys of a 1921 Bechstein concert grand.  The concert focused on variations from Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, and Beethoven, with my personal favorite of the evening being “Variations sérieuses” by Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

It was so meditative to watch Schiff play and to listen to the sounds of the piano.  I haven’t felt so relaxed in ages!  Although I’m no classical expert, judging from the thunderous applause and stamping of feet afterwards, it seems my fellow concert goers enjoyed themselves as well!  Schiff responded in turn by playing a brief encore — which I didn’t recognize, but would love to identify in case anyone happens to know what he played.

Klavierabend: Musikfest Bremen | No Apathy Allowed
Klavierabend with András Schiff

The whole evening was fantastic and inspired me to get back into my old New York habits once the concert season officially starts up again.  But in the meantime, the Musikfest Bremen continues until September 19th, so there is still plenty more time to get a few more concerts in, classical or otherwise!

* Many thanks to Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen / bremen.online for the complementary tickets!  The opinions shared here are solely my own. *

Bremen Half Marathon | Week 7

Bremen Half Marathon: Week 7 | No Apathy Allowed
Via Daily Mile

This past week was the last hopefully for a while that I had to combine a full-time job with big freelance projects and intensive training.  I definitely need a bit of a breather!  With too much stress and not enough time, I’ve fallen into a terrible cycle of too much coffee, sugar, and processed foods.  So I’ve been reading It All Starts with Food and thinking about Whole30.  I’m not interested in losing weight at all, but I am looking for the reset button on my nutritional habits (after the half marathon).  I’m just starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together and connect my nutrition to some issues related to my immune system.  Anyway, has anyone had any personal experiences with Whole30?  Is it all just a fad or can it actually serve to reset your health and nutrition?  I’d love to hear!

  • Monday: Rest is good.
  • Tuesday, yoga: Was suffering from a seriously stiff neck and some neck pain, so I traded my speed training for yoga focused on the neck and shoulder.  Wise decision.
  • Wednesday, speed training: 10-minute warm-up, 2 x 1200m @ 6:40, 6:42, 4 x 800m @ 4:17, 4:19, 4:20, 4:27 (2:00 RI), 10-minute cool down.  I was so exhausted afterwards that I collapsed into bed at 9pm.
  • Thursday: Rest.
  • Friday, strength training: Again, the Seawheeze strength training workout.
  • Saturday, run: Just a standard 5-mile run, plus some strength training with the Nike Training Club app.
  • Sunday, long run: With 8 miles on deck, today was supposed to be an “easy” long run day, but it felt so much harder and it was so much slower than last week’s 10-miler.  Part of it definitely has to do with the 100% humidity since I ran directly after a thunderstorm, and part of it probably has to do with Saturday’s run.  But still.

That’s it from me!  How was your week?  Any thoughts on Whole30?

Bremen Half Marathon | Week 6

Bremen Half Marathon: Week 6 | No Apathy Allowed
Via Daily Mile

Ok, so I spaced on posting about Week 5, but let’s just jump on ahead and talk about Week 6, shall we?  I was super pleased with my running this week, although I think my cross-training left something to be desired.  The pool near work reopens in September and I’m going to have to integrate weekly swims back into my schedule.

  • Monday: Love me some rest.
  • Tuesday, strength training: Used my NTC app again to do a 25-minute workout.
  • Wednesday, speed training: 10-minute warm-up, 3 x 1600 (1:00 RI) @ 8:50, 9:07, 8:47, 11-minute cool down.  Clearly was a little tired in the middle there, but otherwise felt strong.
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday, tempo run: Or rather, this should have been a tempo run, but ended up being just a casual 5-mile run.
  • Saturday, yoga: I tried out the Seawheeze yoga video from last year and didn’t love it as much as this year’s video.
  • Sunday, long run: A strong 10-mile run, 1:44:21.  Although I’ve been participating in the Bremen Half Marathon or 10K for a few years now, today was the first day I participated in one of their informal preparation runs.  One of the local running stores organizes three runs leading up to the race — with a marked 5K course that you can run around as many times as you like according to your training plan, plus food and drinks, for free!  It was a great way to discover a new course in the same park that I run in every week.  Plus there’s just something awesome about being around other runners training for the same event as you — it was definitely the motivation I needed to have a strong run!

Ok, that’s it for this week — I’m totally exhausted! What are you up to these days?

Bremen Half Marathon | Week 4

Bremen Half Marathon: Week 4 | No Apathy Allowed
Via Daily Mile

I made a concerted effort this week to up my training game, and I think it paid off!  Plus, I bought the newest model of my running shoes and a couple of new running shirts, all of which have motivated me that much more  to get out the door.…

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday, tempo run: It was raining, but warm, which somehow made for an awesome 5-mile tempo run.  My pace was all over the place — it should have been 5 miles at 9:10/mile, but instead it was 10:20, 9:28, 9:18, 9:29, 9:39.  Even so, I think it’s generally moving in the right direction and I hope I have enough time to still get those paces down.  Afterwards, I did a 15-minute ab workout using my Nike Training Club app.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday, strength training: Again, it was the Seawheeze strength training plan for the win!
  • Friday, speed training: This run was originally planned for Thursday evening, but the temps were too high so I got up extra early on Friday morning instead.  Although, I’m not sure that helped my pace at all.  I felt totally empty in terms of energy and still pretty sore from the strength training, but so it goes: a 10-minute warm up, 1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, and an 8-minute cool down.
  • Saturday, yoga: My muscles were still SO stiff from the previous workout, and the 45-minute Seawheeze yoga video did just the trick.  Spending an extra 10 minutes with my foam roller also didn’t hurt (well, actually it did hurt a lot!).
  • Sunday, long run: A strong 9-mile run.  My Garmin watch was empty so I can’t say anything about pace, but my energy levels were high throughout the run and I felt really good.  It’s nice to have a run like that once in awhile to keep your training motivation up!

Ok, that’s it for this week’s Bremen Half Marathon training (a bit behind schedule).  What are you up to these days?

InstaSunday | August Break no. 1

Thanks to Susannah Conway’s annual August Break, I’ve gotten back into the habit lately of Instagramming.  So just like I’ve done in previous years (2013 and 2014), I’ll be checking in here regularly with some of my photos. I don’t follow the prompts every day, but they do serve as a relaxed sort of inspiration.  Which is exactly the sort of inspiration I need — there’s too much stress in normal life to be stressed out about social media too.  Plus it kind of fits to the pace of August, don’t you think?

InstaSunday| August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Day One: Breakfast
InstaSunday | August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Finally, summer!
InstaSunday: August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Two: Air
InstaSunday: August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Four: Numbers
InstaSunday: August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Reflections of a cathedral
InstaSunday: August Break no. 1 | No Apathy Allowed
Day Nine: Earth

That’s it for now.  How as your August been shaping up so far?  Are you on vacation like (seemingly) the rest of the world, or holding down the fort at work and/or home?