Stress; It’s a Matter of Perspective

A little stress on a vine can be a good thing. The more a vine has to struggle to get food, the lower its yield, but the more flavorful and intense its grapes will be. That is why the best vineyards are planted in nutrient-poor soil. Stressing the vine ultimately creates a better wine. But some types of grape vines can endure more stress than others. For different types of vines, stress is relative.

My husband came out of his office after talking on the phone with a co-worker who was having some work trouble. ‘Poor Ron,’ my husband started. I was in the midst of reading an email from a friend who is working overseas as what I would call a citizen soldier, though he calls it, ‘a dirty, rotten contractor.’ Before my husband could finish his thought, I said, ‘Poor Hugh,’ and began to read the contents of the email, ‘We’re expecting a few days of rockets since Ramadan ends tomorrow. One hit our hangar recently. It was a direct hit on a helicopter full of fuel, so it torched the entire building. I had just landed, and saw it hit. Fortunately, everyone was at lunch, so no injuries.’ When I finished reading, I realized that I had interrupted my husband, ‘I’m sorry. What’s wrong with poor Ron?’ ‘Nothing,’ my husband responded, ‘Nothing at all.’

Cabernet Sauvignon is very thick-skinned. It is a sturdy vine that can do well all over the world in many types of climates and soils. Cabernet Sauvignon can endure a lot of stress, and still maintain its flavor typicity and character. Pinot Noir, also known as ‘the heartbreak grape,’ is thinned-skinned, and quite delicate as its nickname implies. Some stress will improve the quality of the grapes, but the genetically unstable vine is pretty particular when it comes to climate. She is a bit of a diva that will wilt or mutate fairly easily when faced with too much stress in her environment.

There are not many grapes that can endure the stress that the brave Cabernet Sauvignon can endure and still maintain its taste and character. It is truly a noble grape

My Dinner with Balthasar and Pedro

Last night we had friends over for dinner. She and I are in wine group together. Our husbands work together. So, we had lots to talk about. I felt the wives’ conversation was much more interesting than the husbands, but that may well be because I am a wine nerd rather than a computer nerd.

Our guests have some dietary restrictions, no meat or wheat. When they apologized for their specific requirements, I assured them that it is much more fun for me to cook within guidelines than to be wide open to anything. As Tracy Lee Karner puts it, ‘constraint spurs creativity.’ This is true in any medium, whether it is cooking, writing, or any of the arts.

Balthasar Ress Riesling

Balthasar Ress Riesling

For dinner we began with a gazpacho soup that tasted like a bowl full of summer garden. It paired well with Balthasar Ress Kabinett Riesling, 2007 which is very tart like a granny smith apple but juicy with just enough off-dry, honeyed richness to offset the spiciness of the soup. Full disclosure, I am distantly related to the Ress family. My maiden name is Ress. The owners of winery are my fifth and sixth cousins. But even if this wine were not the nectar of my ancestors, I would love its crisp, tart, honeyed richness. It is an elegant and beautiful wine. It also paired well, as a good Riesling will, with the spicy cauliflower ceviche that our guests brought, and the sweet and spicy bean and pineapple salad that I served. Riesling is a great match with spicy foods.

Our entrée was eggplant coated in cornmeal with basil, oregano and parmesan cheese, quick-fried in olive oil and butter to a golden crisp and served with fresh grape tomatoes tossed with basil, olive oil and salt. Paired with the eggplant we had Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Crianza, 2010. Layered, crisp and lush with flavors of cherry, cedar, leather and pepper. Ninety percent Tempranillo and ten percent Mazuelo, this beautiful wine would pair well with any earthy foods such as eggplant, sausage, or mushrooms. Valserrano-Crianza

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry

Osborne Pedro Ximenez Sherry

For dessert I made a pumpkin mousse and served it with Osborne Pedro Ximenez. This dark, thick sweet sherry had aromas of chocolate, caramel, coffee and raisins. It was perfect with the pumpkin spices.

I loved planning this menu. I will admit I had to google whether or not corn had gluten in it. But coming up with a menu that met some restrictions was more engaging than working without constraints.

It’s All About Pleasure

For my friends who love wine and food and art and music, which is most of you, I am re-blogging a post by Dwight Furrow, author of the thought-provoking blog ‘Edible Arts.’ I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Exploring the Philosophy of Food and Wine

whole-snapper-6526-520x346Bottom line. Food (and wine) has to taste good. Otherwise we won’t consume it no matter how interesting it is. We take food into our bodies, so we are very careful to avoid anything that might be dangerous or disgusting.

This fact about food consumption is often used to cast doubt on whether food can be an art. After all, the fine arts–painting, sculpture, music, or literature—have no such restriction. The fact that a painting depicts an unpleasant scene or a novel recounts a disturbing tale does not inhibit our experience of them. We readily consume the unpleasant when we can hold the object at a distance as we do with vision or cognition. We allow music to express negative emotions as well.

kollwitz Kathe Kollwitz “War”

The violence of Picasso’s Guernica, the desolate personalities of Kathe Kollwitz, the brutal angst of Munch’s The Scream—all depictions of the horrible…

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