Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Hazards of Grape Stomping, Vol. I

Thanks, Amber, for sending me the link to this video and reminding us all of the sacrifices made to bring wine into the world. Truly inspirational.

I feel so bad for this woman. The noises she makes after falling are just heartbreaking. Yet, I can't stop laughing. Fate, why hast thou equipped me with such a foul, black heart?!?!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gourmet dinner

Never underestimate the ability of a good wine to make a mediocre late-night dinner of fast-food leftovers even better.

Case in point: Reheated KFC — extra crispy (though when reheated this usually translates to extra soggy) — with macaroni and cheese and a biscuit.

With Rex Goliath 2004 Pinot Noir (my favorite wine), this paltry excuse for a meal can become something homey and welcoming and savory.

As for the Rex itself, there is a meatiness and a spice to it (not too much spice, though) that many other Pinot Noir varieties lack. And, while it is a savory wine, it's not the kind of wine that takes center stage when it needs to be more of an accent. It's versatile and I imagine would work equally as well when paired with a rack of lamb.

The coloration is like stained glass — a dark cranberry color except around the edges, where there's more of a ruby sheen. And the scent? Subtle yet lush.

And the label? Brilliant.

If you've got $10 to spare, find a bottle of this stuff, grab some genetically engineered chicken breasts, and kick back and bask in the supreme awesomeness.

Monday, September 25, 2006

2002 — a good year

Definitely NSFW.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Relax — DO do it!

That title pretty much wrote itself. I was almost hoping that the Relax was going to suck so I could use the more obvious "Relax — don't do it" variation of everyone's favorite Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, but this wine is actually excellent and I need to tell you all about it and spread the Good News.

I'm more of a reds person, but this Riesling is something I could enjoy any time, day or night, with food or without. The bottle is gorgeous — it's this silky translucent blue that resembles a Swedish vodka bottle more than a wine bottle. The label design is minimalist — it's German — and commands you, simply, to relax. Because you are a dumb American who gets freaked out by foreign words on wine bottles because you don't know what they mean and what's in the bottle and oh my god the room is spinning and something just brushed my leg and won't someone please tell me what kind of wine this is?!?!!?

No, just relax and buy the pretty blue bottle and stick it in the fridge overnight and the next night crack it open and inhale and find your inner child and let her have a sip because this wine tastes like juice! Like apples and peaches and a little bit of greenery and even some citrus. It's light and crisp, like a super cold 7-Up, and I can just imagine quaffing this on a picnic blanket on some warm grassy knoll somewhere, and then lying back and falling asleep, my breath smelling of fruit and sandwiches.

God bless the French

The wine that started it all.

Today I had the chance to visit Kimbrough Liquors (probably my favorite place to get wine, but I haven't had a chance to try any of the Millington or Cordova outlets, so this could always change; let's just say Kimbrough is my Midtown go-to) and lo and behold, what did I see but a bottle of Réserve Perrin, the little French ditty that sparked my wine interest back in March.

Back in February, I attended a weeklong HTML and web design seminar for work, and I carpooled to Germantown every day with my art director. As a way of thanking me for driving him to the classes every day, he gave me a bottle of the aforementioned Réserve Perrin, which I, completely ignorant of all things wine, stuck in the fridge and ignored until I could figure out a good time to drink it.

I had tried wine on several occasions prior to my Réserve Perrin experience. I recall quaffing some homemade peach wine at my parents' house (homemade in the sense that whoever they bought it from had made it; to my knowledge my parents have never made any alcoholic beverages on purpose, though I recall drinking some completely fermented orange juice from their fridge many years ago and spitting it into the sink, thinking it was rubbing alcohol) and trying to choke down some Erik the Red for New Year's Eve. I also remember trying a fruity blush wine at a wedding of one of my former friends/co-workers, but I ended up giving my leftovers to Cox, I think. So, never having had a positive wine experience, I let the Réserve Perrin languish in the fridge for a month.

Then it was Phil's birthday, and I wanted to bring him a bottle of whiskey to drown his newly 26-year-old cares after work. But at 11:30 on a Saturday night in this city, you're SOL if you haven't stocked up on booze for Sunday. So I reluctantly brought the bottle of Réserve Perrin over to Phil's apartment so we could "celebrate" his milestone in a drunken stupor, were we to actually make it through the bottle.

At the time, I was expecting an overpowering aroma and taste from the wine. But I was surprised when it was extremely mild, to the point of being understated. I made my way through several coffee cups, and when the warmth began to spread through me and my words and laughter came more easily and with a hint of true, basic joy, something in me clicked. I could get used to this, I thought. And the next morning I didn't feel a single trace of any drink from the night before.

For someone who routinely has violent reactions the day following moderate drinking, this was a revelation.

Ever since, I've decided I'd give this wine-drinkin' thing a go. I've had lots of misses and a few hits.

Tonight I got the chance to revisit the Réserve Perrin, when I spotted it at Kimbrough, where it's probably been sitting for months while I occupied myself with the California offerings.

The Réserve Perrin is extremely dry, with some strong spice notes that fade into black cherry and other berry flavors as time passes. Very complex. A little meaty on the finish. It's fantastic with cheese (as are most deep reds, in my estimation). I'm finding that this wine is absolutely beautiful on its second and third glass. And I'm not just saying that because I'm tipsy; the complexity of the flavor, once you're sort of acclimated to the spice, really comes alive. I wish I had a big fat steak to eat with a glass of this stuff. It seems decadent, though restrained in a lot of ways. Very versatile. The bottle says it'd be good with Mediterranean cooking. I'm imagining some chicken parmigiana would be outstanding with this wine.

Let us count this among my all-time favorites. For sentimental reasons, sure, but for its sheer force of flavor and complexity. Magnifique!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's hard to document your drinkin' when you're doin' none

So I've been on a sober bender, if you can believe it, since, really, the last time I posted here. Because that night I polished off my last bottle and I've been too broke to splurge and buy any since. (It can be a terribly expensive habit, even if you limit yourself to $10 bottles.)

But rather than let this blog languish because of my own boring sobriety, I'm going to post about something or another, a real point be damned!

Oooh, this is good. It's a primer on Long Island wines*.

I've only ever had a sip of one particular Long Island wine, and it was extra special because I was actually on Long Island and drinking from a bottle procured by Amber's roommate, who works for the vineyard where the bottle was made.

I'll need to keep my eyes open for Long Island wines that can be bought locally.

*I am swooning over this website. So pretty and sophisticated it hurts!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

God bless the Japanese

Who needs a cure for cancer when we can build robots that can taste and identify dozens of different wines, cheeses and hors d’oeuvres?

Japanese researchers and scientists have built a wine-tasting robot!

From the story:

At the end of the robot’s left arm is an infrared spectrometer. When objects are placed up against the sensor, the robot fires off a beam of infrared light. The reflected light is then analyzed in real time to determine the object’s chemical composition.

“All foods have a unique fingerprint,” Shimazu said. “The robot uses that data to identify what it is inspecting right there on the spot.”

The winebot can be personalized to tell you which wines you'd like based on your current preferences. The drawback?

Of the thousands of wines on the market, the robot can be programmed to accurately identify only a few dozen at most. It also has more trouble with the task after the bottle has been opened and the wine begins to breathe and thus transform chemically.

I dunno. It's a cool concept with a pretty lousy execution. I mean, kudos to these researchers for going all out and trying to demystify the wine experience by breaking it down to just the science, but the relative uselessness coupled with the exorbitant price makes this little gadget mostly useless.

Plus, there's a pretty big margin of error:

When a reporter’s hand was placed against the robot’s taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.

Mmmm, bacon hands.

Sucking Loon

Back when Phil worked at Quetzal, he told me that one of their most popular wines was Smoking Loon. So I picked up a bottle of the merlot one day and I think I enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed it enough to get a bottle of the pinot noir, which, if memory serves, I didn't enjoy as much as the merlot (which is weird, as I am a pinot noir enthusiast).

But my memory sucks, and I picked up yet another bottle of Smoking Loon pinot noir a couple of weeks ago when stocking up.

And now, thank god, I've got enough sense to write down that I don't much care for it.

While I appreciate a wine whose mere presence alludes to how much fun it is being crazy, I just don't care for the two variations of Smokin Loon I've had. The label design is lovely, as you can see, with, what, Moroccan and Indian design influences? And the cork is kinda cute, with "whooh" written all over it in some sophisticated typeface, alternated with the word "cough" written in the typeface Reel Big Fish used during their heyday.

But the wine itself is less fun.

It's spicy, much more spicy than I prefer. I can't tell if it's the alcohol or some exotic spice I'm tasting, but I don't really like it when a wine burns my lips. Call me finicky if you must, but damn. If I wanted my drink to taste like liquor, I'd dive into some frigging vodka.

Blech, I just mentally barfed at the thought of diving into vodka. Could you imagine?

Anyway, some other flavors I detect:

The nose is very alcohol-y, with just a hint of ... cherry? Jesus, I have no idea. And the label doesn't even give me any hints!

Seriously, I need to take a wine-tasting course or something. My palate's growth was stunted in childhood when I decided to eat nothing but fish sticks for five years. Really, how do people get to the point where they can smell a wine and deduce that there's a tiny bit of oak flavoring in it? Amazing!

Okay, the website is a little more helpful:

Brilliant garnet color with seductive rose petal green tea aroma. The palate is ripe with heavily extracted cherry and strawberry flavors with a slight astringency akin to pomegranate seeds

Dudes, I've never even seen a pomegranate, much less sniffed its seeds.

I've got so much further to go.

(And I just guessed that there were some cherry notes in there; there are cherry notes in everything!)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm a drinkin', bloggin' fool

Tonight I'm working on my third glass of Jindalee Chardonnay, an Australian wine plucked out of the great year 2004.

Jindalee is another $10 wine I picked thanks to its cute label, but it's a pretty good white, if you're in the mood for something kinda fruity and light. I tried to get Phil to try it by saying that it tasted like sparkling cider. I think he could tell that I was lying, because it doesn't really taste like cider. It tastes more like alcoholic pineapple juice, only without all the pineapple. It's pretty good, but it's kind of forgettable, which is sort of how I feel about most white wines.

I'm such a red snob.

I had a nice chardonnay back in Nashville at Rumba when I was visiting Kristin, and the server asked us, as we were tasting it, if it was buttery. It was, decidedly do.

But for some reason, I have this neurotic impulse when drinking wine to instantly lose all sense of critical taste when asked about what I'm experiencing (hence, in part, this blog, meant to hone my tastes). That is, I couldn't tell the server one way or the other if the damn wine was buttery, because I was afraid I was being trapped. It's the height of ridiculous, I know, but I am always on guard that someone is going to try to trick me into saying something profoundly stupid about the wine I'm drinking, like some server is going to delight in my monumental ignorance about wine and its pretentious everything and try to make me look dumber than I'll readily admit I am.

Why any random bar attendant would go to such trouble is anyone's guess; but I'm always assuming that someone is making fun of my winely ignorance. That's how paranoid about my ignorance I am.

Dear God, I'm insane.

So, yeah, this Jindalee. It's definitely NOT buttery, but is certainly fruity and I taste some apple and strawberry in there, but I could totally be making that up, because I haven't read the label yet.

Okay, I just read the label and I was sort of close. There's peach accents and Jindalee has something to do with cod ... blah blah blah. Did I mention I'm on my third glass?

So, yeah, Jindalee is a decent cheap wine but I wouldn't seek it out.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


A new banner and some edited link colors.

A white background? That's so un-me I don't even know what to think.

Nice, no?

What I'm drinking tonight

This blog is taking its sweet time getting off the ground, that's for sure. I bought four bottles of wine last weekend and had every intention of photographing each one and posting its photo along with a lengthy description, but it hasn't quite panned out that way.

It, will, dammit! Just not tonight. I don't feel like getting the camera out and loading the photos and editing them and all that. So I'll just tell you what I'm drinking and you can use the internets and your imagination to fill in whatever blanks remain.

And by you, of course, I mean me.

I started the night with a glass of Twin Fin pinot noir (somehow three of the four bottles I bought last weekend ended up being pinot noir, even though I set out to specifically get a cabernet; the other is a chardonnay, which I'm saving for daytime drinking).

Twin Fin is a screw-top wine, real cheap-looking, and it runs for about $10 a bottle.

I'm going to take a stab at describing its taste, even though I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about (and I'm kinda getting a headchange because I'm on my second glass, though of a different kind). I have had Twin Fin pinot noir before, back when I was burning through a couple of bottles a week in search of my favorites. I recall enjoying it, which was my experience this time around, too.

When I first took a swig (I don't sip, darlings, I don't sip), it instantly made me smile because it's full-bodied and very rich, almost meaty or nutty. The website says there are strong cherry and strawberry and plum notes, but I can only vouch for the cherry. And maybe the plum. I don't taste strawberry, and to be honest, I've never eaten a plum. But I can totally see how you could say it was plummy, though that's not the first thing that came to my mind.

The glass went too quickly (as do they all), and it was the last bit in the bottle, so I shelved it on my dead wine shelf (I'll write more about that some day and maybe post a photo) and set my eye on the only other open bottle in the apartment: The Pinot Evil.

I'll be honest — I bought this wine based on its cute name and label. People as ignorant as I am tend to browse the aisles of wine and pick things based on their prices and the design of their labels, and putting monkeys on your label is a guaranteed way to get schleps like me to buy your mediocre wine. Pinot Evil, hyuk, it rhymes with "see no evil!"

So, yeah, the Pinot Evil was a disappointing pick. It was around $10, I think (like most of my purchases), and comes from France. The label claims it's a guilty pleasure, but I won't be buying another bottle any time soon. There's just not much to it. It's not complex, in fact, it's kind of like a flat Coke. It's still Coke, but it's not as much fun. There is virtually no aftertaste, and when you swoosh it around in your mouth, nothing blooms or expands like in a lot of good wines.

To tell you the truth, it tastes like a cheap Sutter Home $4 wine to me, and that would be the only price I'd be willing to pay for it again. Because it's boring. Not bad, mind you, but so much more boring than tons of other stuff to get for the price.

So the Twin Fin wins this round, even though I'll be heading back to the wine cellar tiny-ass kitchen to get another glass of Pinot Evil.

What? It's Friday night!