Friday, May 6, 2016

The cheapest, easiest, laziest way to cook with wine.

Okay, I know what I'm about to say sounds bad, and I'm the first one to advocate for drinking good wine and serving it correctly. But when it comes to cooking with wine, I just don't have the time (or the budget) to be a perfectionist. So I've developed some strategies to get the great flavors from cooking with wine without any of the hassle.

The general rule is to not cook with any wine that you wouldn't want to drink. You might open a single bottle to put into the dish you're cooking and to drink while you eat it. Or, if you're cooking with the leftovers from an open bottle from a few days ago, you'll want to make sure you preserved that bottle properly, using a vacuum or gas system and putting the wine in the fridge.

This approach is admittedly not that hard, but I have a few issues with it, because maybe I'm cheap and/or lazy. First, I'll spend about $15 on a bottle of wine to drink with dinner. I won't do it every day, and I'll spend more on special occasions. I'm reluctant to pour a $15-a-bottle wine into spaghetti sauce. If I spent the money and chose the wine, I want to drink it! And if I'm supposed to always cook with wine I would drink, then we have a problem.

Second, I cook dinner for my husband and myself 4 or 5 nights a week. This requires a lot of both planning and improvising. Sometimes I plan a meal and use a recipe; sometimes I make it up as I go along from whatever we happen to have in the house. Sometimes we're drinking wine with dinner, sometimes not. Figuring out which bottle of wine to cook with complicates things, not in an insurmountable way, but in an "I worked all day and need to cook something healthy and fast and I don't want to deal with one more thing" kind of way.

Ideally, it would be nice to have a couple of different types of wine on hand for cooking (red, white, etc.), without having to plan ahead, without having to worry about an open bottle spoiling, without cringing as you pour some of your yummy $15 bottle into the pan.

Here's how you do it!

1)  Buy fortified wine. It lasts a LONG time in the refrigerator, even if you don't mess with the vacuum sealing or gas preservation gadgets. It may oxidize a bit after a while, but who cares? Lots of fortified wine is oxidized on purpose anyway, and even if your particular fortified wine isn't supposed to be oxidized, you're just cooking with it. You'll get some extra nutty/caramel notes. It'll be fine.

I keep 3 bottles in my fridge at all times:  Marsala (a fortified red), Vermouth (a fortified white with citrus and herbal flavors - kind of like an extra strong Sauvignon Blanc), and Sherry (a fortified and often oxidized white). This will cover you in nearly any situation. If you don't want to deal with more than 1 bottle taking up residence in your fridge, get Sherry. It's amazingly versatile, and I wouldn't hesitate to throw it into a dish that called for either red or white wine. Marsala, Vermouth, and Sherry all come in drier and sweeter versions. Go for the drier types.

Fortified wines are higher in alcohol (that's how they last so long) and more strongly flavored. So if you're working from a recipe, you may want to back off on the quantity of wine called for, and replace some of it with another cooking liquid, like water or stock.

2)  Buy cheap. I spend less than $10 per bottle for these wines, and they last a long time. (The 3 pictured above, which currently live in my fridge, run from $6-$8 each.) You wouldn't want to drink them by the glass, but take a few sips just to get to know what you're dealing with. They should taste okay, maybe even nice!

What about box wine? There are several good, perfectly drinkable boxed wines available today, and they make great cooking wines because they're cheap and stay fresh for a long time. However, I don't use them this way, because I'd rather be drinking something more interesting (from the perspective of region or grape) or of better quality. If I kept boxed wine around only for cooking, it would take me forever to go through such a large quantity. It's as much a problem of cabinet space as anything else. If you keep box wine on hand to drink, by all means cook with it!

A few final caveats:

If you've had a open bottle in your fridge for a REALLY long time -- like many months -- give it a little taste before you use it. If it doesn't seem moldy, funky, vinegary, etc., go ahead and use it. These wines should have a long life in the fridge, but check on them every now and then before using them.

This approach is great for upping your game on weeknight dinners. But I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from planning a special meal, cooked and eaten with just the right wine, particularly if it's a recipe that really showcases the wine. That's a wonderful, delicious, rewarding way to spend an evening...just not one I can make happen every week...

For another contrarian voice on the "cook with wine you'd want to drink" rule, check out this great article from Serious Eats:  "Should You Really Only Cook With Wine You'd Drink? The Truth About Cooking With Wine."

And you may also be interested in:
How to Cook with Leftover Wine
How Much Alcohol Cooks Off?
Boxed Wine? Really?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Introduction to the Grapes of Texas

Now is a great time to get interested in Texas wine. Texas is the 5th largest wine producer in the country with more than 300 wineries and growing fast. Texas has more wine history than most people know -- vines were planted in Texas in the early 1600s, which is earlier than they came to California. In the early 1900s transplanted Texan Thomas Munson played an important role in solving the worldwide phylloxera crisis using rootstock from Texas grapes. The Texas wine industry today is often compared to the California wine industry in the 1970s -- the winemakers are still experimenting to see what works best in the climate, the quality ranges from very high to low-but-improving, and the wine is generally undervalued. Check out the Texas Wine Cheat Sheet for an overview of Texas' wine regions.

Most people think about wine in terms of grape variety. Learning about the grapes of a region is a good beginning for learning about the region's wines, but it's especially important in Texas because winemakers here are still figuring out what grapes grow best. In Burgundy winemakers have spent hundreds of years perfecting the wine identity of the region and the marriage of grape to vineyard site. In Texas these are open questions. So far, wineries and grape growers in Texas have tended to take one (or a combination) of the following approaches to their grape selection.

1.  Plant hybrid or native, non-vinifera varieties.

Vitis vinifera is the species of the most important wine grapes in the world and is native to Europe and Asia. Grapes from indigenous American species, such as V. labrusca and V. aestivalis, are generally looked down upon in terms of quality and are unfamiliar to consumers. However, these native varieties (or crosses of a native variety with V. vinifera) perform well in Texas' challenging climate and have resistance to native grape diseases. Popular non-vinifera or partial-vinifera grapes in Texas include Blanc du Bois (cross between vinifera and a native Florida variety), Lenoir/Black Spanish (cross between vinifera and aestivalis), and Norton (V. aestivalis).

Blanc du Bois is a white grape that can be reminiscent of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, or even Moscato depending on how it's grown and fermented. Texas produces Blanc du Bois in dry, sweet, sparkling, and fortified styles. Lenoir is a red grape with the unusual characteristic of having red colored flesh (the flesh and juice of most red grapes are actually pale or white). It tends to make richly flavored red wines with herbal qualities and plenty of tannin. Texas produces it in many styles -- rosé, dry, sweet, and fortified -- but might be most successful with Port- and Madeira-style dessert wines. Norton is a red grape that also makes richly flavored red wines and is produced in dry, sweet, and fortified styles.

Texas winemakers are experimenting with ways to make high quality, consumer-friendly wines from these non-standard grapes. Some are very good, and some have a ways to go. Here are some nice examples I've tasted:

Blanc du Bois
Haak, Blanc du Bois, dry
Haak, Blanc du Bois, semi-sweet
Haak, Blanc du Bois, sweet
Messina Hof, Blanc du Bois Private Reserve, dry
Moravia Vineyards, Blanc du Bois, dry
Haak, Blanc du Bois, Port style
Haak, Blanc du Bois, Madeira style

Messina Hof, Sophia Marie, dry rosé
Georgetown Winery, Lenoir, dry
Tara, Stagecoach Red (50% Lenoir), dry
Enoch's Stomp, Ellen's Sweet Song, Port style
Haak, Reserve Tawny, Port style
Haak, Jacquez, Madeira style
Messina Hof, Port (various styles and prices)
Messina Hof, Tawny, Port style
Messina Hof, Ebony Ports of Call, Port style
Messina Hof, Solera, Sherry style

Stone House, Claros, dry red
Stone House, Scheming Beagle, Port style

(sorry for the blurry picture!)

2.  Plant popular, international varieties.

These include V. vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay. and Sauvignon Blanc, which are household names and make up the vast majority of wine sold in the world. Planting these grapes makes sense for sales, because the wine will be immediately recognizable and familiar to consumers. The drawback is that several of these grapes don't grow well in the Texas climate, so the wines may not compete well with similar wines from other regions where those grapes grow better.

A notable exception is that Cabernet generally does well in Texas. And maybe this issue can be overcome for other grapes with the right growing and vinifying techniques. At a recent tasting of Texas wines in Houston, I drank a great Chardonnay, a grape which had been thought unworkable in Texas. Fall Creek's 2014 Vintner’s Selection Chardonnay (unoaked) from the Texas Hill Country costs $21, and I liked it better than the comparably priced Chardonnay from Chablis that we tasted as a comparison. (The Houston Chronicle has a write-up of that tasting here.)

3.  Plant Spanish, Italian, or other Mediterranean varieties.

Much of Texas shares the warm, dry climate of Mediterranean regions, such as southern Spain, southern France, and Italy, so grapes that traditionally thrive in those regions do well in parts of Texas too. Parts of west Texas and the panhandle also share the cold winters of much of Spain. These climate comparisons have led many Texas winemakers to plant grapes from Spain, Italy, and southern France. These red grapes include Tempranillo, Grenache/Garnacha, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Aglianico. The white grapes include Viognier, Vermentino, Trebbiano, and Roussanne.

Here are some nice examples I've tasted:
McPherson Viognier
McPherson Reserve Roussanne
Barking Rocks Roussanne
Becker Provencal Rosé of Mourvedre
Fall Creek Rosé of Grenache (It outperformed its French counterpart in the tasting I mentioned above.)
Spicewood Mourvedre Rosé (Also performed well against its French comparison.)
Llano Estacado Cellar Reserve Tempranillo
Duchman Aglianico
Flat Creek Sangiovese
Kiepersol Syrah
Spicewood Syrah

I believe all of these cost less than $25.

4.  Buy grapes from somewhere else (aka the Texas Grape Shortage).

The growth of Texas wineries has outpaced the growth of grape production. There are simply not enough Texas grapes to go around, so many Texas wineries buy grapes from other states, often from California. How can you tell if a wine is made from Texas grapes or grapes from somewhere else? The word "Texas" on the front label indicates that at least 75% of the grapes came from Texas. Wine regions within the state, such as "Texas High Plains," may be listed also.

But be careful -- "Texas style" and other variants on "Texas" do not necessarily indicate Texas grapes and can be misleading. Check the back label for the words "for sale in Texas only." This statement legally exempts a producer from putting the origin of the grapes on the bottle, and usually means the grapes were purchased from another state and vinified by a Texas winery. Why would a winery want to omit the origin of the grapes? Because it's marketing the wine as a Texas product. The law is complex, but in a nutshell, if the grapes came from California and the wine was made in Texas, the winery has two options:  1) label it "American" wine, or 2) leave off the statement of origin and sell it in Texas only, because it doesn't meet the labeling standards required for interstate commerce. This is a controversial topic, because many think "for sale in Texas only" intentionally misleads the consumer. I prefer the "American" designation, which you can see on Flat Creek Estate's Viognier below. (More details on the law here. Additional perspectives here, here, and here,) Luckily, more and more grapes are grown in Texas every year, so I hope to see fewer and fewer wineries buying grapes from other states and taking advantage of this loophole.


The next time you're in the wine shop, pick out something from Texas and see what you think. Like everything else Texan, there are many choices, many styles, and many opinions. Texas is making lots of great wine, and there's never been a better time to explore the variety.

You may also be interested in:
Tasting Tannat from Texas
Returning to Messina Hof for my 1st harvest and grape stomp!
Comparing 2 Texas Viogniers
Texas Kneecaps (with Bonus Lesson on Semi-Generic Labeling!)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Wine Infographic: Champagne Cheat Sheet

Next in the wine cheat sheet series:  Champagne!  The most important thing is if it doesn't come from the Champagne region in France, it is not Champagne.  Just call it sparkling wine.

See the full collection of wine cheat sheets here.

To see the Cheat Sheet in full size…
…in Internet Explorer, right click on it and select “open in new tab.”
…in Chrome, right click on it and select “open link in new tab.”
…in Firefox, right click on it and select “view image.”   

You may also be interested in:
Wine Infographic:  French Wine Cheat Sheet (new and improved)
Wine Infographic:  Loire Valley Cheat Sheet
Tour Bordeaux with a French Wine Scholar in 2017

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Top 4 Things to Know About Super Tuscan Wines

If you’ve explored much Italian wine, you’ve heard the term “Super Tuscan,” but you may not have known what it means. It doesn’t mean a really good Tuscan wine, although it might also be a really good Tuscan wine.  

1.  Super Tuscans exist because of Italian wine regulations.

The Italian wine system of “denominations” is similar to the appellation system in France.  Italy names its wines after the region in which they are produced.  The smaller the region, the higher the quality.

The Italian wine regions on the map below are IGTs.  (However, no IGT-level wines are made in Piedmont or Aosta Valley.)  These IGT regions contain DOCs and DOCGs within them.  For example, Tuscany (Toscana IGT) has 33 DOC and 9 DOCG regions within it.

Each level of classification carries requirements for grape variety, winemaking techniques, etc.  The most elite categories (the smallest regions) have the strictest rules.  The goal is to ensure a standard of quality and give consumers confidence that if a wine says “Chianti DOCG” (the most famous DOCG in Tuscany), it meets those high standards and will generally taste like a Chianti.  

But what if a winemaker wants to experiment with a different grape or technique?  If the requirements of the highest quality level (DOCG or DOC) are not met, the wine must be labeled with the larger region, which will have a lower quality classification and fewer restrictions (IGT).  The origins of the name “Super Tuscan” are disputed, but it has been used since at least the 1980s to refer to wines that use unapproved grape varieties in Tuscany.  These are wines that could otherwise be DOCs or DOCGs, except they include the "wrong" grape variety and must be labeled as IGT. Despite the lower classification, Super Tuscans have a reputation for high quality and have often commanded high prices.

2.  They use non-traditional grapes.

While Sangiovese is the traditional Italian grape of the region, the Super Tuscans started by blending in popular international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Today, a Super Tuscan might be made from 100% Sangiovese, 100% another grape, or a blend of several grapes.  The grape varieties and blends are up to the producers.  The end result tends to be a big, red, powerful wine with rich flavors.  Personally, I love them.

3.  The term may be losing its meaning.

Though Italian wine law must continue to protect its indigenous varieties and traditional wine styles, it must also adapt to modern techniques and improvements in quality.  The great success of the Super Tuscans has driven changes in the law such that some Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines, because limited amounts of non-Italian grape varieties have been approved.  For example, many Super Tuscans now come from the Bolgheri DOC on the Tuscan coast.  

Winemakers also recognize that as Super Tuscans are produced in a variety of regions, with a variety of grapes, the name and the style begin to lose their identity.  One solution has been to focus on the naming and branding of specific winemaker’s blends.  Many Super Tuscans are labeled this way, with the branded blend in quotation marks, like Castello di Fonterutoli “Siepi” Toscana IGT.  Another solution has been to develop the unique identity of the smaller regions within Tuscany which are producing these wines, such as Bolgheri.  These moves make sense, because these winemakers are not only trying to differentiate their product, but also want their wines to reflect a sense of place.

4.  Beyond Tuscany…

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Attention Clear Lake: We have craft cocktails!

Clear Lake just got its first Prohibition-era, speakeasy-style bar for craft cocktails. Preamble Lounge and Craft House in Webster is open now, with a grand opening celebration planned for April 1. I stopped by this evening for a drink and was very happy with what I found - and even happier that it's 5 minutes from my house.

Located in an unassuming strip center between 2 movie theaters -- the Cinemark on one side and the NASA Dollar Cinema on the other -- Preamble has a classy modern-industrial interior to rival anything inside the loop.

More importantly, the cocktails are really good. I tried the Garden Gimlet (a basil-infused gimlet that was perfectly not-too-sweet) and the Bee's Knees (made with local honey and lavender). Both were delicious, although the gimlet was my favorite. I also got to preview the house red wine, which has a good balance of fruitiness, acidity, and oak, moderate tannins, and should please many palates and complement a variety of foods. Speaking of food, the menu is still in the testing phases, but should be rolled out soon.  The beer taps are stocked with a variety of local craft fare.

Preamble has a dress code on Thursday through Sunday evenings (casual all other times). I think it's cool that they've added this touch to recreate the more glamorous feel of a bygone era. I'll be interested to see how it works for them, since I'm not aware of any other bar that does it. They currently have a well-curated Pandora station playing, but live music of all types is on the agenda.

I'm excited to welcome Preamble to the neighborhood, and excited that our Clear Lake horizons are expanding!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wine Infographic: French Wine Cheat Sheet - new and improved!

The original French Wine Cheat Sheet was one of the first wine cheat sheets I ever made, more than 3 years ago. I've gotten better at it since then! Here's the new and improved version.

This kicks off a greater focus on French wine in my personal tasting and studying, in preparation for being the wine educator on a river cruise through Bordeaux next year. Want to come along? Find more info here:  Tour Bordeaux with a French Wine Scholar.

The full collection of wine cheat sheets is here.

To see the Cheat Sheet in full size…
…in Internet Explorer, right click on it and select “open in new tab.”
…in Chrome, right click on it and select “open link in new tab.”
…in Firefox, right click on it and select “view image.”   

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tour Bordeaux with a French Wine Scholar! (updated with new discounts)

I'm currently working with a travel agent to organize a group for a Bordeaux river cruise in 2017.

More info...
  • AmaWaterways has created a great itinerary with a lot of wine tastings and activities. They plan the itinerary and run the cruise.
  • Travel with your own French Wine Scholar - me! I will be on the trip to provide additional educational opportunities, answer your questions, and help you get the most out of your experience. (Expect cheat sheets for the wines you taste!)
  • The ship holds ~150 people, but our group-within-a-group of ~25 will allow a more fun and personal experience, and you'll be able to get to know your fellow passengers and wine enthusiasts better.
Itinerary:  8-day/7-night "Taste of Bordeaux" cruise
Sailing Date:  October 26, 2017
Cruise vs. Cruise+Land:  I am doing just the cruise, but you have the option to extend the trip by a                                              few days on land either before or after the cruise.
Air Travel:  You may arrange your own air travel, have our travel agent book it for you, or purchase                       it through AmaWaterways.

What are the discounts?
  • Discount on Double Occupancy Cabins:  Through March May 2016 (just extended!) it’s $1000 off per person. After May 2016 it’s $250 off per person.
  • Discount on Single Occupancy Cabins with Windows Only:   The single supplement is waived, so you pay the same price to have your own cabin!  This discount is good until they sell out of that cabin type.
If you want to reserve in time for the best discount, let me know, and I’ll get you in touch with the travel agent.

Are you interested?

If you're interested in this trip, contact me! Also, if you may be interested in other future trips, please let me know that too.  I'll keep you posted on upcoming plans.

Local gathering to learn more...

For those who live in the Houston area, we are planning to set up a wine and cheese gathering with a representative of the tour company who can provide more information. Please let me know if you'd like to be invited. No pressure to sign up for the trip, just a chance to learn more and taste some Bordeaux wine.

Happy wine travels!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Organic Bargain from Chile

I've written a couple of times before (here and here) about Emiliana in Chile.  Emiliana produces organic grapes which are farmed sustainably, and some of their wines are biodynamic.  (More on biodynamic wine here.)  I liked the wines I had tasted so far, but I had never tried Emiliana's Sauvignon Blanc.  So when I saw it in Fresh Market today for $10, I had to try it.

Emiliana's Natura Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Casablanca Valley in the Aconcagua Region in northern Chile (check the Chilean Wine Cheat Sheet to see where that is).  Its aromas are fresh and crisp, with lime, grapefruit, and grassy notes.  Like most Sauvignon Blanc, it has a bit of vegetal character (like asparagus or canned mushrooms).  The flavor is dry but fruity, crisp and tart, with tropical fruit and citrus notes.  Overall it's well balanced and has a nice finish.

I drank it with a spinach and mushroom crustless quiche, and it was perfect.  

You really can't do better than this for a $10 Sauvignon Blanc.  This one is going into my regular rotation.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Egyptian Travels and Wine Tasting

I just got back from 12 spectacular days in Egypt, and I cannot say enough good things about the trip. It was a cruse down the Nile, and now I'm totally sold on river cruising. If you need any recommendations for an Egypt visit, post your questions in the comments!

Ahem...back to wine... Of course I researched wine in Egypt before I went. Egypt has thousands of years of winemaking history, going back to the earliest ancient times. Today, Egypt is a primarily Islamic country, which means many Egyptians drink no alcohol. However, Egypt does have a small wine industry, and I tasted and brought back some samples.

The History of Wine in Egypt

Images from the tomb wall of Kha’emwese in Thebes, c. 1450 BC,
showing winemaking in ancient Egypt.

The knowledge of winemaking came to Egypt from Mesopotamia around 3500 BC – more than 5000 years ago. As early as the Old Kingdom period (2650 - 2152 BC), winemaking scenes were painted and carved on tomb walls. The inscriptions tell us that wine was produced in the northern part of Egypt, the Nile delta, and five different types of wine are mentioned as being desirable to take into the afterlife. A few New Kingdom (1500 - 1000 BC) temples also show grapes and wine as offerings to the gods.

Grapes and wine as offerings to the gods in the Temple of Horus at Edfu.

The average ancient Egyptian drank more beer than wine, which was more of an upper-class beverage. However, wine was important as a drink for pleasure and one of the only medicines available. If used as a medicine, wine was often mixed with herbs, spices, or plant extracts.

Most wine in ancient Egypt was probably red, but newer evidence suggests white wine may have been made as well. Because wine in ancient Egypt was stored in clay jars called amphorae, we can study the wine they drank by analyzing the residue of wine remaining in the jars. This may be a tiny amount which has been absorbed into the porous clay.

When Christianity came to Egypt (around 33 AD or soon afterwards), monasteries were founded and produced wine for communion. Later, the spread of Islam to Egypt (in the 600s AD) greatly reduced the amount of wine produced, since Islam prohibits drinking alcohol. But not all Muslims follow that provision, and some amount of alcohol has always been produced in Egypt and widely available.

Wine in Egypt Today

Egypt's climate is too hot and dry to produce wine in most areas. The Nile delta in northern Egypt receives an average of 1-8 inches of rainfall per year, but the central and southern parts of the country average near zero. Grapes can only be grown in the wetter regions of the delta and near the sea, which moderates the heat.

One of the biggest producers of wine in Egypt is Al Ahram Beverages Company or ABC (owned by Heineken), which produces beer, wine, and spirits. One of their most popular wine brands is Omar Khayyam. For the 12 days I was in Egypt, we drank mainly Omar Khayyam Red. We brought back a bottle of red and a bottle of white (both from the 2013 vintage).

Omar Khayyam Red is made from the grape Bobal, which is a lesser-known variety of Vitis vinifera and originates from Spain. The wine has jammy aromas of raspberry, blackberry, cherry, and cedar. It's dry, with a smoky finish, and moderate levels of acid, tannin, and alcohol (12.5%). This is a fine, everyday sort of wine. It isn't showy and probably wouldn't win awards, but it tastes good, it's well balanced, and it can pair with a wide variety of foods. We drank it and enjoyed it with dinner most nights.

Omar Khayyam White is made from the grape Sultanine Blanche, which is usually a table grape. However, it makes a pretty good wine. It reminded me a bit of a Chenin Blanc or a Chardonnay. It's an old world style, with lots of mineral aromas, lemon, almond, and a bit of oak. It's dry, with high acid, medium body, and a slightly higher perception of alcohol than its actual 12.5%. The Omar Khayyam website describes it as "simple, clean and fresh" and says it "needs to be drunk young." I'd agree with those statements. Like the red, the white was also perfectly fine, but the red was better.

And Beer Too!

Egypt also makes beer, and it's pretty good. The two most popular are Stella (no relation to Stella Artois) and Sakara, both owned by ABC/Heineken. Stella is a light lager, which is extremely refreshing in the heat. Sakara Gold has more flavor and more bitterness. We liked both, but preferred Stella.


Sakara is named after the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Sakara (sometimes spelled Sakkara or Saqqara), which is older than the more famous Pyramids of Giza.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Projects and Travels Afoot...

I've been posting less of late, because 2 new projects have been taking up my time. One is wine related (hopefully more on that soon). The other is travel related. Here's a hint that relates to both:

I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule in several weeks.  Cheers!