Enjoy the View

C472D356-6C16-4DE8-9D6F-E9CFED9F1A82From the vantage point of a bench on the Lake Tahoe beach with the backdrop of a glorious sunset, peoples’ lives rolled in and out of view like snippets of home movies. A bride with her sailor husband and his sailor groomsmen came down to the beach for pictures. She looked cold and we wished they would hurry up and take the pictures so that she could put on a coat. But they were as a group, happy, celebrating and impervious to the cold.92ED000A-915B-4C9A-B9CA-D9B45A9A2571

 

89285AEE-7B0C-42E7-8AAC-AF111040297DA mother with her two boys and a golden retriever spent some time on the beach. The boys were throwing a football and the mother threw a stick for the dog over and over again into the cold water. Each time the retriever brought the stick out then fell into the sand and rolled in the gritty grains, looking forward to her next chance to retrieve the stick.

A grandmother brought her daughter and baby granddaughter to the beach. The baby, maybe 1 ½ years old was clearly still struggling with walking. The sand made it all the more difficult, coupled with the fact that it was cold enough to have been bundled in a puffy winter jacket that held her arms out at 45-degree angles. She looked like a drunk Michelin man as she conquered the sand.

Four older men walked along the beach singing loudly. They must have been old drinking buddies out for another night of just enjoying themselves. There was a young couple who came down just to get pictures of the sunset and each other. All of these lives rolled in and out of our view, all enjoying a beautiful evening on the lake.30819952-EF1A-4560-B54F-DFAAA82A4887

Wine takes us places. A living thing from different parts of the world, wine is a liquid travel log that introduces us to different climates and cultures and lives. The winemakers’ stories are a part of the wine’s terroir. Each sip is like a snippet of a home movie.

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When Writing is not Enough

 

A94D8EFC-1C49-4019-8AC2-F99F45C38A0CDear Wine Bloggers Conference Organizers, Please put us to work. We cannot in good conscience come to Sonoma to celebrate. Now is not the time for revelry. But we can come to Sonoma and we can work. We can help with clean up, we can help with organization, we can help in the shelters or with fundraising. We can and will certainly help with spreading the word that in spite of the devastation that has hit our beloved wine country, Sonoma and Napa are still alive and still vibrant. Most wineries are still open and operating. We are all more than eager to write about this beloved place. But please let us do more. Put us to work. We want to help.

Sincerely,

A Wine Blogger

What Wine Pairs with Parenting?

 

“Well, yeah, it’s a day off, but after this, I pick up the kid and take him to soccer practice, then help him with his homework, then put together something for dinner. So, it’s not really a day off,” said Gary, a 40 something father in our wine-tasting group. It wasn’t that he was complaining. He was simply trying to explain to Dani a 20 something, not yet a parent, how becoming a parent kind of redefines ‘free time’ and absorbs days off.

I couldn’t help but back up what Gary was saying. “Once you have kids, there’s no such thing as time off.  Time to yourself becomes a precious commodity. That’s true from infancy until young adulthood. Parenting is work, energy, attention and all of your time. Going to a job is easier than parenting because at work you have both hands free and are in full control of where you want to focus your thoughts.”

Dani got a pained look on her face. “You guys are making rethink the whole kid thing.”

BlogFebreguesHow does one explain the joys of parenthood to a wine person? I think like this. The time before kids is like Chateau Febregues a crisp citrusy rosé from Costieres de Nimes. It’s made from Grenache and Syrah grapes and has flavors of strawberry, cranberry and lime zest with a hint of mineral on the finish. It is light, bright, refreshing and delightful.

Parenthood is like Chateau Haut Bergey a right bank Bordeaux from BlogBergeyPessac-Leognon. It is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Intense and earthy, this wine has great structure with aromas of chocolate, licorice, dark fruit, dried herbs, and tobacco. Rich and layered, each sip presents a new aroma. Chateau Haut Bergey is a deep, complex wine that demands time and attention.

Bordeaux are not cheap and they require some thought to truly appreciate. But I can’t imagine life without Bordeaux.

Wine in the Age of Meaning

2014 Syrah“Some wineries are too big to have a story…or too old to have a story,” was a comment Joy made one night in the wine store.  It struck me as odd to think that a winery could be too old to have a story.  If anything I would think the older wineries would have more stories or at least more interesting stories.  But I suppose she meant that some wineries have been around so long that everyone already knows their stories.

It had been a slow night in the wine store when James, a young man of 20 something came up to me and said, ‘I’ve done all my closing duties and we’ve still got an hour and a half to go.  It’s nights like this I wonder what am I even doing here?  I mean, what am I doing with my life?’

His musing had taken a sharp turn south that I did not see coming.  It is a sentiment I see only distantly in the rear view mirror.  There’s an urge in youth to make every moment meaningful.  I’m not sure if the urge diminishes with age or if the meaning of ‘meaningful’ changes as we mature.

Robert Hall winery is neither too old nor too big.  His story, like others, is that Robert Hall, the man came to wine about 20 years ago after finding success in other careers. The winery is located in Paso Robles, an AVA in California’s central coast in San Luis Obispo County.  In 2014 Paso Robles went from being 1 AVA to 11 AVA’s due to the great diversity in the area’s soil, topography and climate.  But to gain approval as a separate AVA, each region must make its argument to the TTB ( Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau) as to what sets the area apart, what about the region will affect a different wine.  Without delineating the differences, the designated AVA’s would have no purpose.  The distinction would be meaningless.

The 2014 Syrah from Robert Hall is complex with aromas of smoked meat, rich earth, and dark fruits, Bing cherries and black plums.  Well balanced and structured, it is the rich dark fruit of the wine that gives away the wine’s identity as a product of Paso Robles.  Neither young nor mature, this wine is exactly where it should be.

Smell Memory and the Autopsy of a Wine

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The best way to learn the smell of bell pepper is to put one in the back of the fridge for a month, then cut it open and take a big sniff. That is the advice we were given at a tasting seminar a few weeks ago. In the seminar Master Sommeliers broke down by chemical and aroma how to identify wines. The smell of bell pepper in wine is caused by pyrazine, a chemical found in the Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. By smelling an aged (rotten) bell pepper we will be cementing a smell memory, making it easier to recall during blind tastings.

The smell of black pepper, found in Syrah and Zinfandel is caused by a chemical rotundone. I had a huge aversion to black pepper during both pregnancies and have avoided it since. So my smell memory for rotundone is non-existent. I’ve been snorting black pepper in my free time in order to cement that memory.

Analyzing the wine by its primary, secondary and tertiary aromas, then dissecting its structure is the most accurate way to identify it. But sometimes it feels like one is trying to identify a friend by taking inventory of his or her physical traits. ‘You have blue eyes and brown hair and are 5’7”, so you must be Rebecca,’ rather than just recognizing one’s friend when one sees her.

I have had so many Napa Chardonnays or ‘Cougar Juice’ as it is affectionately called, I just know it. Is it the nuttiness on the back of my throat from oxidation? Is it the ripe, tropical fruit? Is it the creamy leesiness or the malolactic butteriness? Is it the caramel and spice from the oak aging? No, it’s all of that and more. It’s everything together all at once.

“I always know a Chablis by the smell of chalk,” said my friend, Josh in our tasting group one day. I’ve always been stumped by Chablis. I don’t know what the chalky soils there smell like. But as I smelled the Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis I IMG_1212had a memory, not of soil, but of playing pool with my grandfather, holding the pool cue close to my face watching my grandfather take his shot, which he always made, and smelling the chalk on the cue tip. That’s the smell memory I will associate with Chablis.

Smell memory takes time to develop, and it is an important tool in identifying wine. But smell memory also needs context in order to be meaningful. Wine it seems is more than the sum of its parts.

Those Beaune Wines are Bon!

The Beaune region of France in the Cote d’Or in the northern part of Burgundy is known mainly for its white wine, Chardonnay. That’s because eight of the Grand Cru of Burgundy are in Beaune, and they are almost all, with the exception of Corton, known for their Chardonnay. But just because Beaune produces mainly Chardonnay doesn’t mean that great Pinot Noir can’t be found there. If one is searching for a beautiful red Burgundy that is affordable, the outlying areas of Beaune are a great place to look.

Pinot Noir can be bold and ripe like she is in California. Or she can be tart and a little earthy with layers of interesting things to say, but she says them all in a quiet subtle voice. That’s the Pinot Noir of Beaune.

imageChristophe Buisson’s Saint-Romain just southwest of Pommard and the city of Beaune takes a little time to get to know. She opens up slowly and evolves in the glass like a quiet beauty full of character. She has the red fruit of Pinot, cherry, dried cranberries with notes of purple flowers, hints of rosemary and a splash of wet earth. But the aromas come out slowly and carefully, well positioned on the firm structure of acidity and subtle tannin. She is lovely.

Just northeast of the city of Beaune is Chorey-Les-Beaune. Here Machard de Gramont mimageakes a beautiful red burgundy. The structure is perfectly balanced between acid, tannin and alcohol. On that structure lay the beautiful aromas
of red fruit,
purple flowers, and forest floor. She also opens up slowly. But it is definitely worth the time it takes to get to know this tart, elegant beauty.

Respect: No Results Found

valdicavamontellcino2010“I’d like that Valdicava Brunnello di Montelcino, 2010, please,” she said as I neared the lock box.

“Beautiful choice,” I said as I unlocked the case.

“We’re having it with fondue,” she continued.

I hesitated for a minute, “Meat fondue?” I asked hopefully.

“No, cheese.”

“Would you like to look at some beautiful, aged white Burgundies?” I gently suggested

“No. This is the wine my husband wants.”

Brunello di Montelcino is 100% Sangiovese.  It has the highest requirements for aging of any Italian wine, four years, two of those in oak.  The long oak aging gives the wine tertiary aromas of organic earth such as mushroom and forest floor.  The long bottle aging gives the wine tertiary inorganic aromas of mineral.  The aging will also make the wine more well-integrated and complex.  This is a wine that demands a meaty, hearty dish.  Both the food and the wine  will be enhanced by the pairing.

It’s her money. Who am I to judge. It should be no concern of mine. But there is something vaguely repulsive about handing over a gorgeously aged, fine wine to someone who clearly won’t appreciate and respect the wine.

In a few weeks there will be a march to protest a certain election, and the elected official. When I think about what really bothers me about this election, it comes down to the blatant lack of respect for women. I thought I might find a nice Bible verse to put on my sign that would sum up the importance of treating each other kindly and with respect. But when I went to BibleGateway.com and put in ‘respect women’ the response I got was ‘no results found.’ And that is what bothers me the most about this election, not just that the candidate has no respect for women, but my country seems to be okay with that.

For people who have no appreciation for the wine, they might call it wine snobbery, while we call it ‘treating the wine with respect.’ For people who aren’t the targets of the disrespect, they might call it ‘being politically correct,’ while we call it being a decent human being.