Is This Word Necessary?

Like many people on WordPress who consider writing a great hobby, I love words. Oftentimes, a word is so obscure and nuanced in meaning, it is downright beautiful. But there are some words that I have come across in my wine studies that are convoluted in their specificity to the point that they become nothing short of awkward. I’m talking about you ‘organoleptic!’ I would much prefer to consider wine a multi-sensory experience, than an organoleptic one. And do grapes really need to be ‘autochthonous?’ There are way too many unblendable consonant blends in that word for my taste and comfort. I would much rather think of a grape as traditional, native, or indigenous.

‘Acescence’ has a nice ring to it, but wouldn’t it be easier to say, ‘this wine smells like vinegar? ‘Pétillant,’ also, while a very pretty word seems much more opaque than saying, there’s ‘some fizz’ in the wine. Acidity is very clear and useful, but isn’t ‘acidulous’ superfluous?

There are some wine words that have a usefulness far exceeding their specificity. For example, I would much rather drink a Champagne with good ‘autolytic’ character, than one with the aroma of decomposing yeast cells. The sand and clay soil deposits of rivers flow much more smoothly when they are referred to as ‘alluvial.’ And while ‘carbonic maceration’ sounds a little bit dirty, it’s a lot easier to say than, ‘enzymatic fermentation in reductive conditions.’

It is certain that too much description is always better than ‘yucky or yummy,’ when it comes to wine. I am sure, as I continue my wine studies that I will keep learning new, descriptive oenological words. I just hope they’re all wine related.

The Economics and Politics of Guns and Gun Control

In light of what happened in Massachusetts last night and Sparks on Monday, I have created this post for any and all political discussion on the issue of gun control.

Stefano says:

October 23, 2013 at 7:01 am (Edit)

I am incredibly relieved to hear that your daughter is safe and was not affected by the latest crazy shooting “incident”.
As to what happened, I am perfectly aware of how divided people are on this issue and all the huge financial interests that are at play for the gun industry, but I think that as a citizen and a parent of a school-age child I would be much happier to hear that serious effort were finally made to pass legislation that would restrict access to guns and subject those that are already out there to local authorities’ supervision and their owners to background and sanity checks. Then by all means, let’s change the name of the school to honor yet another hero teacher who, much like in the case of Newtown, sacrificed his life to save those of his students, but I would rather see our schools keep their names because we actually did something to try to stop this madness and to keep our kids and their teachers alive and well. How many more will need to die in vain before we remind ourselves that we have a conscience and we should do something about it?

the drunken cyclist says:

October 23, 2013 at 7:11 am (Edit)

Well said Stefano. “How many more will need to die?” You will never eliminate gun violence, but unless you take a stance and try, you are complicit in what is going on.

What Names Can Mean

LivI got an upsetting call yesterday. It was my sister calling from Maryland to ask if my daughter was okay. It was 9 am here and I hadn’t turned on the radio or television. I didn’t know why she was asking me about Liv until she told me what she had heard on NPR about the shooting here in Sparks. ‘Did they say a Sparks Middle School or Sparks Middle School.’ We live in Sparks and my daughter goes to a Sparks Middle School, but not Sparks Middle School. In that instant name meant everything.

Chablis Grand Cru is made up of seven parcels of land that combined cover 247 acres of a single hillside. Between two of the parcels, Vaudesir and Les Preuses lies a small plot of land, La Moutonne. La Moutonne is not part of the Chablis Grand Cru, but because of where it lies, it is a name that will be put on the label. In Chablis, name means everything.

As was reported on national news, a 12 year old boy showed up to Sparks Middle School with a semi-automatic weapon and shot one child while threatening others. Michael Landsberry, a math teacher at the school confronted the boy. Because of his actions the other kids were able to get away with only one other child being shot. Unfortunately, Mr. Landsberry was not able to get away. He was killed. All that was in the national news. What hasn’t been in the news is that there is some movement in our community to rename the school. If the proposal goes through, it will no longer be Sparks Middle School, but Landsberry Middle School. To the kids of Sparks Middle School, that name means everything.

Escaravailles’ Ponce and en primeur bargains

I enjoy The Cellar-Fella’s blog so much. It’s not at all poncey, just very clever.


En Primeur. Two words guaranteed to send the eyebrows of any not-particularly-into-wine person leaping northwards. They either don’t know what it is, but know that it’s foreign, and therefore unforgiveably – and this word is going to crop up a few times today, in various forms – poncey, or they kind of know what it is, and believe it’s a ludicrous mechanism for allowing bankers to acquire Chateau Lafite by the pallet, and therefore unforgiveably poncey. There’s probably a decent chunk of actually-quite-into-wine people who think the second definition isn’t far off the mark. But there’s another en primeur market, far removed from that in first-growth claret, which allows price-conscious punters to snaffle great wine at great prices.

The wine above is one that worked out for me. It’s a Rasteau, an area in the Southern Rhone producing red wine using lots of grenache and bits and pieces of other…

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Pinot Gris; ‘What?’

Breggo Pinot GrisRemember those kids in high school who always seemed to be a little off in the rhythm of the conversation; the ones that when they made a comment it was usually out of sync and the response, if there was one at all was usually, ‘What?’ They weren’t the last-picked kids, but they never quite fit in or made an impression. That’s how I view Pinot Gris.

Mark Oldman in his book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, describes Pinot Gris as, ‘…a glass of ice-water with a wedge of lemon.’ My fellow bloggers have likewise referred to the spectacular non-descriptiveness of PG. Truth be told, I’m right there with them and have often wondered at the other more casual wine drinkers’ love of this brand or that, only to have my tasting of their recommendation met with an overwhelming shrug of my shoulders and memories of going to a beach cottage in a small town, turning on the tap and tasting a peculiar minerality that makes the water too unpleasant to drink. Unfortunately, there’s no bottled water and the 7-11 is already closed. Under those circumstances I’ll open the Pinot Gris.

But the more I hear disparaging comments from my fellow bloggers whose opinions I hold in the highest regard, the more challenged I feel to find a truly enjoyable PG. And found one I have!

2011 Breggo Pinot Gris comes from the cool AVA of Anderson Valley. The color is golden, the aromas are lemon, and there’s that minerality. But the flavors are honeyed. Light-bodied and crisp, but with a lushness to it, the lemon and honey blend nicely and hold up well in this simple yet quite pleasant wine. I served it last night with a corn-fried tilapia and spicy pineapple salsa. The acidity of the wine stood up well to the spiciness of the jalapeno and cayenne in the dish, while the honeyed flavor of the wine echoed the sweetness of the pineapple. It was perfect.

At $19 it is a bit more than I like to spend on a PG and certainly there are Rieslings that would be just as crisp and honeyed for less money. But I am happy to have found a Pinot Gris that I truly enjoyed.

A Call to My Fellow Wine Bloggers

Pinot Meunier GrapesAre any of my fellow wine bloggers interested in meeting up in Santa Barbara County, California for the annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference? I’m thinking about attending next summer and thought it would be awfully fun to have a ‘wordpress’ table with my virtual cohorts. All the details can be found on this link.

Another event next summer that would be awfully fun for wine-obsessed people such as ourselves is the Society of Wine Educators Conference. It is open to members and non-members alike, though with a bit higher price for non-members. Taking place in Seattle next summer, it is three days of classes, seminars, and loads of wine in the company of some very knowledgeable people. Here is the link for that event, though the final details have not, yet been posted. But the calendar from last year will give you an idea of the information that will be shared through classes and seminars.

If any of my fellow bloggers are thinking about going to either event, please leave a comment. It would be fun to get together in the three-dimensional world.

Of Oenologists and Choreographers and the Cleverness of the Craft

Merry Edwards WineryMeredith Edwards was the first formally educated female oenologist earning her degree from UC Davis. She worked as a vineyard manager until 1997 when she established her own winery, Merry Edwards, in the Russian River AVA of Sonoma. She is known for her beautiful Pinot Noir wines. The Russian River blend is lush, bright cherry with a chocolate finish. The Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir has blueberry and blackberry aromas, but still with a crisp structure. The Meredith Pinot Noir is earthy with aromas of dark fruit and spice, the most tannic of the three. All her Pinot Noirs are beautifully crafted and express the crispness one would expect from this cooler region of Sonoma.

I was talking to my daughter the other day about the different choreographers at her dance studio. They are all talented, each having his or her own style. But there is one choreographer in particular whose dances stand out above the others. We were trying to identify what made his work so notable, and the only word that expressed what we both perceived in his work was ‘clever.’ His choreography plays off the music and with the music in a way that is not quite expected, but not so different that it is unrecognizable. When we watch his dances, there is a moment of surprise and then a moment of, ‘oh, I see.’ It is this same cleverness that often makes many art forms appealing, writing, music, the visual arts, humor. When one is able to make a new observation that speaks a ‘not yet thought of’ truth as in, ‘I didn’t see that coming, but now that you mention it…,’ that is cleverness in art.

The Russian River AVA, while it grows many grapes, is known in particular for two, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are two grapes that do very well in this cooler climate. Though firmly established in the Russian River AVA, Merry Edwards does not offer a Chardonnay as her white wine. Instead, she makes a Sauvignon Blanc, a grape more often found in warmer climates such as Bordeaux. Her Sauvignon Blanc is aged in 3 to 5-year-old oak barrels. The lees are stirred twice a week. The wine is aged for 6 months. And what she has crafted from this slightly out-of-place grape is a guava/pineapple flavored white wine with an absolutely sparkling acidity. It is lush and crisp and a little unexpected. The first sip is surprising and gets your attention. With the second sip you think to yourself, ‘Ah, now I get it,’ and by the third, it all makes perfect sense. Merry Edwards is able to take the Bordeaux grape, Sauvignon Blanc and play it off the Burgundian climate of Russian River in a very clever way.

In Search of a God-Shaped Vineyard

Earth and Sky“Wake-up. This will be way more fun than service,” I said to my husband at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning. Two mugs of coffee later, we were on our way over the hill to Sonoma, cutting church and leaving the kids on their own for the day. It’s not that we don’t love our children, or even church for that matter. But every once in a while it’s fun, no, exhilarating to abandon responsibilities and just play for the day.

DeLoach Chardonnay VineyardAs the golden hills of Sonoma came into view along winding route 12, covered as they were with leafy green vines just starting to turn into beautiful shades of yellow and red, we slowed the car down, and rolled down the windows, breathing in the warm, moist, fragrant air. By 9:30, the sun was already getting warm and church service would be winding down. I felt just a twinge of guilt, then drank in the beauty that surrounded us. There was something of God here. In that moment I thought to myself, ‘how silly that we try to stuff God into a human-made building and understand Her/Him with human-made thoughts and words, when there is a much more powerful presence of God in nature that communicates without words.’ As Pascal once said, ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God…’ I am not planning on becoming a Zorastrian or Pagan any time soon, but, it would be rather unappreciative of us to not once in a while drink in the powerful beauty of nature. As Karen Armstrong points out in her book, A History of God, all religion began with and was inspired by human beings’ awestruck appreciation of the power of nature.

Russian River WineryAs we drove further into the Russian River region, the forest became denser, with vineyards carved out between large stands of trees. We hopped from one winery to the next, taking our time, asking lots of questions, and sipping the many and varied versions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are the grapes for which Russian River is known, being one of the cooler regions of Sonoma.

Many of the wineries now offer wine club deals, costing nothing to join and offering great discounts on purchases. But it requires a commitment to purchase about a case of wine a year. This didn’t appeal to either my husband nor myself, as to us a great deal of the fun of wine is trying all the different types, so many wines.

The Road to SonomaMy mother is an ordained minister with the UCC church. While she loves her church, one of her philosophies has always been that religion is human-made. We create it in order to understand God. There are many paths to God. We must each find the path that speaks to us. Yesterday, my path was Interstate 80 West.