A Quiz for Winerds

I always enjoy the weekly wine quizzes offered by The Drunken Cyclist, and Talk-O-Vino. They are fun and interesting, and I always learn something. I thought I’d offer a quiz of my own, though I don’t know if this will become a regular part of my blog. For now, it’s just for fun.

1) The result of the rain shadow effect is that the valley east of the mountain range gets very little precipitation because the clouds cannot rise high enough to clear the mountains until they empty themselves. Thus, by the time the clouds are over the valley, they have no precipitation left. Name four wine growing areas that benefit from the rain shadow effect.

2) The three most common climates for wine-growing regions are Mediterranean, continental, and maritime. Mediterranean is the most ideal for wine growing because of its mild, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Some wine growing regions are found in marginal climates, that is, climates that are just barely able to produce wine grapes. Name two wine growing areas that have sub-tropical climates

3) Since the outbreak of the root louse, phylloxera in the 19th century, most vineyards have been replanted by grafting the vinafera vines to the rootstock of a North American species that is resistant to the louse. Name two wine growing regions that still use vinafera rootstock. Why are they able to do this?

4) I am having a dinner party and I am inviting my friends, Pedro Ximenez, Gordo Blanco, Xarel-Lo, and Crljenak Kastelanski. Tell me where my friends are from, what wine I will be serving, and in what order.

5) Name three wine growing regions that have Mediterranean climates, but are not on the Mediterranean.

6) The name Riesling is often given to grapes that are completely unrelated to the Rhine Riesling grape. Which of the following is a true Rhine Riesling:
a) Cape Riesling
b) Weisser Riesling
c) Welschriesling

Good luck! Answers will be posted soon.

Fires to the West of Me, Burners to the North, Here I am…

Tyrrell's Wines, Semillon, Hunter Valley, 2012Currently, there are four major fires burning west of where I live. Reno is a desert basin surrounded by mountains, a valley that is a great bowl of sand, with the majestic Sierra to the west and south, and the ‘purple’ Pah Rah mountains to the east and north. Living between two mountain ranges creates some beautiful scenery, except when forest fires rage, the wind blows east and the bowl fills up with smoke. We are on day six of hazardous health conditions. Friday our air quality was worse than that of Beijing’s. No direction offers escape. West is toward the fires, east is the direction that the wind is blowing, and north is a traffic jam of burners. This week-end kicks off Burning Man. On Friday the stores in Reno were crawling with burners stopping for supplies before they made the final leg of their pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert.

While I can not escape by car, there are some other ways to find respite from the smoke. For one thing, I won’t be ending the summer with a BBQ. It will be a long time before I grill again. I’m very tired of the smell of smoke. Another way to refresh my smoke-caked palate is with a light, crisp, Semillon, originally a blending grape used in white Bordeaux as well as botrytised for a sweet Sauternes, Semillon is made in the sweet and dry versions in Australia. Hunter Valley is known for their Semillon. Tyrrell’s Wines in Hunter Valley Australia makes a light(10% alcohol,) dry, Semillon with a lovely lemon flavor and just a subtle hint of herb. Very crisp with no mineral undertones, it’s a great palate cleanser and perfect on a smoky night like tonight. It also goes really well with fish, cooked indoors, nowhere near a grill.

I hope the burners enjoy a week full of art and creative energy, but opt not to burn the Man out of respect for Yosemite, and those of us living in Reno. I think we’ve all had enough burning.

As Literal as Weights; as Figurative as Wine

Chateau de La Perriere Brouilly, 2009The other day I was in the gym lifting weights like I’ve been doing for the past 25 years (taking time out for meals, of course) when I heard what is perhaps the worst training tip ever. The guy next to me was telling his friend, ‘Lift the weights out in front of your body…but not literally.’ When it comes to lifting weights, there’s nothing figurative about it. If weight lifting isn’t literal, I don’t know what is.

Last May, the food and wine hedonist, a trained sommelier, wrote a blog about wine, giving his reasons for not writing about wine. His main reason is that wine is a subjective experience. In a sense that’s absolutely true. The average human can perceive 1000 aromas, and we each perceive them a little differently. There are 200 different aromas that can be found in wine.

When I smelled the Jean-Claude DeBeaune Chateau de la Perriere, 2009 Beaujolais last night, it was as if I had put my nose in a bouquet of red and purple flowers that were so fresh, they had a small amount of soil still on their stems. The flavor was like a mouthful of cranberries with just a whisper of dirt, soft, light and lovely. But I was not literally smelling and tasting those things. The aroma experience of wine is subjective and very figurative, not to mention, seriously romanticized. It’s the poetry of wine. That’s one side of analyzing wine. The other side is more like weight lifting. Wine has elements. They are acidity, alcohol, tannins, and sweetness. It literally has those elements. And when those elements are in balance with each other, like the Brouilly was last night, the wine is well made. When it comes to assessing the elements of a wine, experience and knowledge go a long way and can be very helpful in culling the good from the bad or mediocre. When a knowledgeable person writes about a wine that has good balance, I know it is a well-made wine. I may not experience the same aromas that the reviewer experiences, but I can count on the quality of the wine.

I hope the food and wine hedonist continues to share his ‘wine voice’ and knowledge with us. In the meantime, I have to get back to benching five more 500 pound sets…but only figuratively.

Changing Places

???????????????????????At the dinner table the other night, my 17 year old son asked me, ‘Do you know what ‘nom’ means?’ Before I could answer that I had no clue, my 13 year old daughter interjected, ‘Bob! Don’t tell her what it means! You know she’ll use it!’ But my son had a good defense ready, ‘She’s going to use it anyway. It’s better she learn it from us than on the street.’ Did my children and I just trade places?

Primus is a Chilean wine that was recommended on The Vintage Idiot’s blog. The wine she reviewed was 100% Carmenere. The one I tried is a blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Carmenere, 23% Syrah and 10% Merlot from the Colchagua Valley. It opened with aromas of pepper and berries. The flavors offered cherry, chocolate, oak, smoke, spice and earth. And the flavors kept on coming. The Primus blend has great balance and a solid structure with loads of flavor that evolve over time. It is mainly made up of Bordeaux grapes with the exception of the Syrah from Rhone. But, Carmenere, though originally from Bordeaux, has become the signature grape of Chile, and is little used in its place of origin. It was thought that she had been wiped off the face of the earth by Phylloxera, but as it turns out, she had just grown up and moved on to Chile. Carmenere, the lost grape of Bordeaux, has changed places, and is doing beautifully in her new home.

‘Nom,’ in case you’re wondering means ‘eat,’ as in the noise one makes when eating, ‘nom, nom, nom.’ And both my son and daughter are right. I will use it. I will go out for noms with my gal pals, or, as my teenage daughter would say, ‘my bros.’ Mainly, I use teenage slang around my children in order to annoy and embarrass them. It def drives them totes cra, cra…whateves.

Rosé and Immortality

wbwToday is Wine Blog Wednesday; the theme is dry rosé.

Last night I opened a Tavel, Chateau De Trinquevedel, 2011. It was a beautiful coppery rose color with a great minerality and bright crispness, interwoven with an undercurrent of a soft, subtle tea-rose flavor. I served it with a roasted salmon with lime-butter along with caramelized zucchini and onion seasoned with beau monde and farmer’s market sweet white corn on the cob. The vegetables were delicious, but the rich, lime-dusted, wild-caught, sockeye salmon with the rosé was perfect. The buttery richness of the salmon softened the tannins (yes, this rosé had some good tannins) of the wine. The acidity of both food and wine complemented each other nicely.

Chateau De Trinquevedel is made from six grapes. It’s mainly Grenache along with Cinsault, Clairette, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Bourboulenc. They are grown in an Astien fluvil sand with quartz round pebbles and deep clay loam. The wine is cold macerated for two to four days, fermented for 20, then aged in stainless vats for six months.

I have no idea what kind of soil the zucchini, onion and corn were grown in. I suppose I could have asked the farmers when I bought it from them. But it has never occurred to me to do so.

What is it about wine that is so intriguing and compelling it makes us want to know everything about it? It has depths and dimensions like no other consumable food or drink, each wine nuanced and different from the last, each sip expresses itself a little differently as the wine evolves and interacts with the food. There is no other food or drink that can be so romanticized, that inspires so much interest, curiousity, and dogged devotion. In the words of Eduardo Galeano, “We are mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.”

Rain, Pork, and Vino Nobile

Vecchia Cantina, 2009

Vecchia Cantina, 2009

Tonight the skies have opened with all the fanfare that thunder and lightening can bring. This isn’t anything unusual in the summer time of the Midwest, but I live in the western desert. Lightening is so unusual here in the great basin, when it happens we run outside to watch it. Rain brings the same reaction.

Vecchia Cantina is a Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. It is made from Prugnola di Gentile, a Sangiovese clone. It is tangy, juicy and delicious, anchored with a spicy earthiness, the tannins soft and round. There is a lushness to this wine that I don’t expect in a Sangiovese. That made it all the more pleasing.

Last month I was in Ohio and experienced four rain storms in one week. For me, they were absolute pleasures. For the native Ohioans, the rain was an inconvenience. I noticed while I was there in my home state, that just as the Inuits have 50 words for snow, and the Japanese have 42 words for the color blue, the Ohioans have 23 words for pork. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised in Ohio, and eat pork like a Midwestern Protestant. Funny story, on one of our visits to my parents, my husband commented that they put pork in everything. I defended them, ‘They don’t put pork in fruit salad!’ That night my mother served melon balls with prosciutto. But I digress. My point is language reflects culture. And the culture of Ohio is pork and rain.

Sangioveto, Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, Morellino, and Nielluccio and all synonyms for Sangiovese. That there are so many words for one grape is surely a reflection of the culture of Tuscany. It is when a culture knows a thing well that it creates language for all its nuanced facets. Tuscany knows Sangiovese like Ohio knows pork.

Just like rain in the desert, the lushness of Vecchia Cantina was an unexpected but welcomed pleasure. And it goes really well with ham.

The Rhythm of Wine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you think of all the things in the world that have rhythm, the one that leaps to mind first is probably music, with its meter and time signature, it is built on rhythm, and would fall apart without it. Perhaps, waves come to mind, the resounding crash, and skittering withdrawal, as the waves come one after another, ceaselessly, lulling the reverent shore into a quiet stillness. Poetry must have rhythm, but prose, also has a rhythm if not meter, that if well done, will propel the ideas along with the words, whispering where it needs to whisper, and emphatic, only when necessary. Our own bodies have rhythms, heartbeats, brain waves, and speech patterns. Circadian rhythms govern us all. Our lives are filled with rhythm, inside and out. What, then, is the rhythm of wine? Is it, perhaps, not in the wine itself, but in the ritual of it, the anticipation as one reads the label, a region, or grape not yet tried. The cork is pulled out slowly, carefully, the wine poured to just one third of the glass, then swirled, inhaled, savored, as the mind runs through a mental list of descriptive words, cherry, no, blackberry, and smoke, oak, maybe and some vanilla, another swirl, and then a taste to confirm and add to the description. After this ritual of analysis, we settle in to simply enjoy and savor the wine. There is rhythm in this ritual. But does the wine itself have a rhythm? The wine must be balanced, fruit and tannins in harmony with acidity and alcohol. Harmony connotes rhythm. So, perhaps, ritual and balance are the rhythm of wine. It is difficult to define exactly what the rhythm of wine is, but it is quite easy to identify a wine that has no rhythm.

Wine and Trouble; the Field Trip

(The Armchair Sommelier has challenged us with the topic of trouble in the monthly wine challenge. This is my submission. )

The Field Trip

The Field Trip

The school bus rolled along as comfortably as school buses roll, with its torn vinyl seats, each holding two or three fifth graders excitedly anticipating the annual trip to the courthouse, unaware or unconcerned with how loudly their voices carried, one little boy’s more than the others, in a voice so loud and clear, he could not be ignored, nor could he be mistaken for having said something else, as the bus stopped for a red light, and all other voices seemed to diminish in volume. We all on the bus, myself, the other chaperones, all the children and Ms. Bronk the classroom teacher sitting behind me, all of us heard his words ring out in that moment of stillness, “Bob’s Mom says it’s fun to get drunk!”  Yes, I’m Bob’s Mom.  I felt Ms. Bronk’s eyes bearing into my skull as I sat there stunned, my mind racing trying to piece together why little Preston had said that, all the while smiling feebly at Ms. Bronk, and looking questioningly at Preston.  Then I remembered a conversation I’d had with my 10 year old son a few weeks earlier when he asked me why anyone would ever become addicted to alcohol.  “Maybe,” I answered, “he has a few glasses of wine with dinner, he feels light-headed and happy.  He thinks its fun so he does that a few more times.  Before he knows it, he’s hooked, drinking every night, waking up with horrible headaches, he becomes cranky and disorganized at work and can’t hold onto his job.  Then his wife divorces him.  But he’s so addicted to alcohol, he can’t quit drinking.  And so his life is ruined.  Remember, son,” I conclude, being the good and conscientious mother that I am, “everything in moderation.”  In my son’s mind my dramatic moral lesson boiled down to the simple phrase, “It’s fun to get drunk.” 

Now, my son is 17.  I don’t know that our communication has improved much in the past 7 years, or perhaps Bob is just having his fun.  On Monday my CSW certificate came in the mail.  He must be very proud of me, because he includes that information in his introductions of me to his friends, “This is my Mom.  She’s really into alcohol.”