27 February 2009

27Feb - Southern Wine & Spirits Pinot tasting
Southern Wine and Spirits put on a Pinot Noir tasting on Tuesday, which Jennifer and I attended. I must admit that having 75 different wines to look forward to in town is a pretty attractive notion after having to schlep down to Charleston for tastings.
Anyway, we went over and were greeted by Pinots from 8 different countries: US (CA & Oregon) , Australia, South Africa, France, Argentina, Italy, Chile, and New Zealand.

This is a very daunting situation for me, as the palate can only take so much. I very much wanted to approach wines in the following order: wines I might reasonably carry by-the-glass, wines I'd carry by the bottle, wines I just can't afford.
Ultimately, I approached wines as the whim demanded.

It's always nice to see familiar faces, so we talked to Tony of SWS and Marc of Clos du Bois (with whom I'd tasted a number of wines earlier in the day). One thing that bothers me a bit about going down to Charleston is that there are so many established cliques down there and I always feel like I've been picked last at a team sport when I show up to a tasting. The Carolina Wine Source principals are always very nice to me, but still...

Anyway, there were some disappointments, as life demands there always will be, but I was very pleased at the list of wines we walked away having really enjoyed.

There is, admittedly, something of a haze that muddies the waters of memory, but a list does exist and it goes roughly like this, in no particular order:

The Erath Dundee Hills estate. I've had this before, and even ordered it for the restaurant before. I remember being mostly black fruit on the nose and just an overall feeling of elegance.

The Veramonte from Chile. This, it is said, is made under the eye of mr paul hobbs, a winemaker who's made cabs that have made me shudder with pleasure. unexpectedly, this also made Jennifer's radar, who's tastes, it seems, usually require a price tag of at least 30 bucks, wholesale. This is quite reasonable in comparison. This is another mostly black fruit on the nose wine with a bit of a tannic structure.

The Etude Carneros. This was the only Carneros there that still tasted like Carneros to me. It was red fruits more than black, which is generally what I like. Most of the other ones from Carneros were getting a bit plump and high-ish in alcohol. But this was nice and lean and tasted especially great the following day.

The J line. Russian River, Nicole’s Vineyard. Sonoma Coast. I’d had a J pinot a little while ago and kind of liked it but this time we really enjoyed the line. And Kelly, she who grabbed our attention to taste them, was spot on with describing them as just getting better and better as we went on. As we traveled up the tiers the wines become more complex and more elegant,. Even the lowest tier, the Russian River, was very much to our tastes. Good aromatics and a consistent follow through for the flavors and finish.

And, though I hate to lump together, I’m just going to name the rest that we really enjoyed, in no particular order. The Davis Bynum Russian River Valley. The Chandon Russian River Valley. The Goldeneye, Anderson Valley, and the Migration Anderson Valley. The Erath lower tier out of Oregon and the Panther Creek, also out of Oregon. I preferred the Freedom Hill and Jennifer preferred the Shea Vineyard from the Panther Creek line.

We also enjoyed, to varying degrees, the following. The Wild Horse Unbridled. Jennifer liked that one more than I did. I really enjoyed the nose but I felt the mouthfeel wasn’t as bold as the nose. This was, admittedly, towards the end of the tasting so it wasn’t the most ideal circumstances to make a final decision. Clos du Bois’ North Coast and Sonoma Coast wines were very good for the money. Jennifer liked the North Coast (a little brighter and smoother) while I preferred the Sonoma (a bit darker with a tannic structure.) The Coppola Directors Cut was pretty enjoyable, though we weren’t terribly impressed with his Diamond series. Bouchaine was solid, as always. The Cloudy Bay out of New Zealand was more to my taste than I expected. My memory of New Zealand wines is that they were terribly acidic and unbalanced until you hit at least $30, when things started getting good. This was a good, solid pinot but, I think, somewhat overpriced.

Oddly, the Burgundies were not the stars I thought they’d be. There was a Gevrey Chambertin I was looking forward to but that I found to be less layered than I’d expected. I feel like I owe Jennifer a life-changing Burgundy to get her hooked so she can start throwing her money down the Burgundy pit.

Most of the wines we tasted were 06 and 07 with only a few 05s and 04s tossed in. There was no correlation of age to enjoyment, though one of the Js was an 05 and the Chandon was an 05. And it seems like the Russian River region was responsible for a lot of the wines we enjoyed. Its cool climate was producing some nice, well-balanced, and lean pinots.

We generally behaved ourselves. Jennifer and Gil traded jokes. I made a vaguely dirty remark involving a structural feature on one of the particularly well-made bottles, but I got the laugh. And, as seems to be our habit, we closed the bar down in an effort to take advantage of the partially filled bottles left over.

So. Good times were had by all.

22 February 2009

22Feb- interesting NYTimes article on eggs

Eggs News

don't know why. I just happen to like eggs. Had some this morning. Had some last night.

20 February 2009

20Feb- interesting, surreal, not unpleasant lunch experience

I was at Frank Richards the other day, a pleasant little liquor store I found because the owners have had a good time or two at the restaurant. This is in the Cedar Terrace Plaza across the street from the VA hospital on Garners Ferry. It is, admittedly, not a terribly polished area. This little plaza seems to have been forgotten in so many ways. There was a little hardware store with an old man, sitting on what appeared to be a bag of grain, with his old golden retriever. Anyway, as I was leaving (and deciding whether I should turn around or go over the apparently home-made speed bump through which someone had already broken through in places) I decided that I wanted to try the Chinese restaurant back there. In my explorations I've found wonderful fare in some unexpected places (the most amazing chili cheeseburger at Anthony's Dairy bar on the corner of Two Notch & Chestnut, just past Providence and that Benedict field. Very flavorful fried chicken and potato wedges at the Kwik Stop on Harrison(?) off of Killian Road. Neither situated in an area I'd feel comfortable alone and at night, but delicious food.) so I figured I'd give this place a shot.

The Canton Restaurant, situated next to the beautiful Canton Lounge (with its patio table and chairs chained to the wall and an 80s era security camera perched atop the air conditioner like a puffin judging a leap. If ever there were a place in town where I could imagine someone getting killed in a high stakes mah jong game, it would be here. I need to move some things around and make time to go there.) It had only been open for a half hour when I went in so I felt safe in getting the buffet. I tried to order a beer as I sat down but the man who seated me informed me, with an apologetic smile, that he didn't understand English. I tried speaking slower. I tried naming a few beers they might have had, including Budweiser as I pointed to the Budweiser clock on the wall. Each request was met with an apologetic smile, so I figured he didn't peg me for 21 but didn't want to ask me for my ID. I ordered a sweet tea (with no problem...) and served myself from the buffet. The food was fine. No better or worse than most of the Chinese food available in Columbia. The egg rolls, I thought, were pretty good. Crisp and flavorful. I remained the only person in the restaurant, largely bereft of decoration and sound, until the man turned on a television that was up in a back corner. Now, I've never really been a Wiggles fan but some of their songs do weasel into the mind. As I got up for another plate four soldiers came in, laughing and joking with each other. I have a great deal of respect for the armed forces, let me say, but I suddenly had flash backs to movies about the Vietnam war and I couldn't help but fear for the dignity of the man who worked there. Something about the quality of their laughter and chest-puffed brio made it easy for me to imagine them pushing the man around or, should a female employee come out, making cat calls and inviting her to sit on their laps. They were, of course, respectful to him but they continued to be quite loud.
It was at the moment that the four of them broke into "Mary had a little lamb" along with the Wiggles that I felt as though I was in a David Lynch movie.
I finished my food and paid ($7 something for the buffet and a sweet tea. not bad) and returned to real life.

I believe I'll make time to go back next week.

I could also see this happening here

15 February 2009

15Feb - random thoughts on learning about wine
A question that gets asked of me a lot is how did I learn so much about wine.
I'll be the first person to admit that I still have volumes upon volumes to learn about wine but that which I do know is enough to make me seem knowledgeable and experienced and terribly sexy. (That last one is just something I tell myself.)

The most important things in learning wine, in my belief, is time, exposure, and attention. Money, of course, is pretty important, but not necessarily in extravagant amounts. I happen to be in a fortunate position in that people bring me wine to try. In this way I've experienced a good deal without having to spend out of pocket but I've taken it upon myself, with my own time and meager capital, to seek out different and interesting things.

I've found the Wine Bible by Katherine MacNeil to be an invaluable resource. It's broad in its scope, written very clearly with an eye towards the layman, and not terribly expensive.

Additionally, all the things one must remember when approaching many an endeavor apply: Always be learning. Read articles. Read the backs of wine labels. Read about wines that may not interest you at that moment for you might find your tastes changing.
Pay attention. Try to remember not just what wines you like but what was it about them that you liked. It's all well and good to remember that you liked a Bordeaux you might have had in a restaurant but with as many that are produced, walking into a store with a general flavor profile may lead you to other, similarly interesting wines.
Be open. If I'm in the mood for a Bordeaux I know that I can't be stubborn about it having to be from Bordeaux. Some of the Bordeaux blends I've enjoyed most have been from regions like South Africa, Washington State, Australia, and California. If I'm in the mood for a Burgundy, I've found similar effects of earth and rose and elegance and silkiness in aged Barbaresco and some dry Portuguese reds. I would've missed out on some wonderful experiences if I'd insisted on walking out of the store with specifically what I went in for.
Be Patient. There's a huge amount to learn. Just crazy, silly, vast amounts to learn and rushing through information is never a good idea. If you want to learn about the major grapes learn about each grape individually. Have four or five different cabs then have four or five different syrahs. Then maybe compare and contrast a cab and a syrah. But you aren't doing yourself any favors by drinking a dozen different wines in a day; the tongue can only take so much.
Don't jump to conclusions. Two grapes that seem to get maligned unreasonably are riesling and chenin blanc. The general assumption is that these produce sweet wines. Both wines are capable of producing bone dry wines as well as semi-sweet and dessert sweet wines. Similarly, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both cover a lot of ground. Chardonnays can be dry, steely, citrusy and clean as well as buttery, oaky, and full of tropical fruits. You can find a Pinot Noir that is practically transparent with light, red fruit flavors and a silky finish as well as deep, rich ones with black fruit flavors and a clear tannic structure. There is a tremendous amount of variation, even within the expression of a single grape.
Be Humble. This, above all, will be good for you across the board. Always remember that no matter how much you learn there will always, always be somebody who knows more than you. And if you're lucky, when you meet them, they will also be humble and not delight in showcasing the gaps in your education.

I'm tired now, so I'll stop there.
But, you know. Think about that.

11 February 2009

11Feb - researching for Valentine's Day?
I should mention again that not only is Valentine's Day the only day of the year that we accept reservations, we are now booked solid.
There are a couple of spots at 5.30 but the seats would have to be vacated by 7 and that just sounds like an odd caveat so I mention it really only as a matter of interest, not a suggestion.

And I can assure you that Friday will be a mad, chaotic mess since we don't accept reservations.

Tonight will be slow, though, if last night is any indication.

10 February 2009

10Feb - Cloud Nine wine chat
As some of you know, I love Cloud Nine Market on Gervais. That's largely peripheral to the story; I just wanted to mention it. (Beautiful carrot cake, by the way. Not too sweet. Good pecan action.)
So I'm there yesterday enjoying a Breckenridge Vanilla Porter when the wine rep for Grapevine comes in. I've known him for a little while, having met him through regulars at the restaurant, and we sat and chatted for a bit.

It's fun to chat wine and it's particularly fun for me to chat wine with someone with more experience than I have. I feel like, in so many ways, it's a gratifying exercise to be able to discuss things like appellations and styles and trends with someone who knows what you're talking about. It's like finding someone who loves the same obscure album or artist that you do. It's nice being able to be told about someone's expression of Chardonnay and I offer "So it's like a Meursault?" and be confident that they know what I'm talking about.

I've been in a Tom Waits mood lately and have a playlist I set up for a couple of friends who are just starting to get into him. It was so much fun for me to revisit all of his albums to pick and choose. All of the old emotions and memories came trickling back and there was a general sense of contentment. (If anybody wants one, bring me a blank CD and I'll burn you a copy.)

I wonder what makes it fun to revisit things like wine, or music, or art, or books with others. Is it the pleasure of knowing someone else has similar interests and, in knowing that, our senses are calmed since -as social animals - we feel fairly safe that this person isn't a threat to you or the group? Is it that synapses like to fire in established patterns and when we experience and learn things that bring us pleasure we establish those patterns? Is it really already 9.30am?

That's all, I suppose. Just a thought. If you want to, I might recommend revisiting an old, favorite book or movie or beverage or album. Or piece of art or swatch of velvet or perfume. Whatever it may be, find a little bit of comfort today.

the expressions on the other musicians are fun to watch

05 February 2009

05Feb- So today could've been better
But I'm trying not to dwell on it. As I sit at home eating sauteed pingtung long eggplant and duck breast (right out of the pan like a beast) with some tasty martini action going on (somebody was nice enough to leave a bottle Ketel One here after a party, thank heavens) and Pandora playing (like a good friend going through their record collection - sleeves spilling here and there in their enthusiasm- saying "you've got to hear this") I try to remember the good spots in the day.

The white wine and beer fridge behind the bar broke sometime yesterday and we were lucky enough to get it repaired today. Thanks to Suzi from El Burrito for recommending Troubleshooter Air Conditioning and Refrigerator Repair in Lexington. They got there quickly after I called and had the thing up and running pretty quickly. Friendly guy and very, very reasonably priced.

So that happened, but I was thinking that it was kind of nice - as I rushed to save all the wines in the fridge - that we've accumulated several very respectable white wines. It reminded me of how much I love my list. It reminded me of how much I love wine. It reminded me of the multifarious pleasures that wine can give.

Which reminded me of a bit later today when Cramer, my Republic National rep, brought in a man from Remy Pannier in the Loire Valley. He had eight wines for me to try and there were some in there that I must have for the restaurant. I was able to exercise the grey matter a bit and learned a thing or two, which is always great. I got to taste some very affordable sparklings and a very affordable Chinon (100% Cabernet Franc) that I'll bring in to augment my slightly more expensive Chinon. It was great meeting this man, who was from the region and clearly had a great love for the wine. The Loire is not terribly well-known which I believe is a shame. So many of the wines coming out of the region are great with food, a trait that is slowly dying out in favor of huge wines that tend to suffocate average fare. I've sung the praises of Muscadet and Chinon for some time so it was nice to chat the wine and the styles with someone from the area and I think my interest and appreciation brightened his day a bit, as his most clear lament was for how poorly known Loire generally is. I got to speak a bit of my terrible French, which he tolerated charmingly.

I finished up my Tom Waits mixed CD for a couple of friends who are just learning about him and I listened to it several times today.

Then evening work happened.

And now I'm here trying to pretend that it didn't and instead focussing on the good things the restaurant had to offer me today.

And I remind myself that it's not all gravy. It can't be.
To be particularly wine nerdy, every so often you're going to get a corked bottle. Those are just the odds.

We need to enjoy those great bottles and not dwell on the corked ones.

05Feb- whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
I'm not saying I've got great self-esteem (the general public has seen to that) and I'm not saying I'm not materialistic (all that I have doesn't define me, but who I am is reflected in much that I have.) but to say that they go hand in hand seems a bit much.

Scientists find that Low self-esteem and materialism go hand in hand

01 February 2009

01Feb- want to open for an all Tom Waits Sunday
Here's how I see it: we congregate around noon. each table has an NYTimes sunday crossword puzzle. Mimosas & wine flow to "heart of saturday night". around 2 somebody orders a few pizzas. people start reminiscing. 4o'clock we hit "Black Rider". near 7 we're playing b-sides and Charlie Patton. By 10 we all wonder how we got there.
and 12o'clock? Pff. Forget about 12o'clock.