Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yet another link dump

You can tell I've not done much tasting lately when I dip into the wine links.

Never fear; this weekend it's going to be cold and I can't think of a better way to stay warm than to stay in drinkin'.

I totally went to the wrong school: Chaffrey College in Rancho Cucamonga is planting a vineyard on campus space, where students, presumably, will tend to the budding grapes through the process of becoming delicious Zinfandel in about four years. Full story.

Speed dating for drunks: Some singles seek solace sipping spirits surrounded (s)by strangers. Damn! Full story.

More unhealthy American tripe, apparently: British scientists have found what they feel is conclusive evidence that wines from traditional vineyards in France and Italy contain the highest amounts of the stuff thought to make wine good for you.
Full story. I can't say I care too much, though. Other scientists contend that in order to truly notice the effects of reservatrol (the chemical thought to make wine heart-healthy), you'd have to drink 100 bottles of wine a day. And who has time for that? Full story.

A fad diet worth trying: Put simply, The Wine Diet will save your life. So says this guy. Full story.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The spread

Tomorrow my family's kitchen will be ripe with the smell of baked potatoes and roasted turkey, green bean casserole and pecan pie. I can't wait, even if there's only one thing on that list I will actually eat.

Today I went to the store to select my Turkey Day spirits, and I went with an additional bottle of Fetzer Guwurtz (that's two for those of you keeping score at home), plus a bottle of Réserve Perrin for myself (no one likes the reds but me) and a bottle of Wild Bunch white, simply for the name (it applies infinitely to my family). Each of these wines cost less than $12. I'm looking forward to seeing how each pairs with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm also looking forward to seeing just how drunk I can get my family before they say uncle.


No. 4 is the only one I'd have

WineGirlOnline has a hilarious list of awful gifts for the wine-lover in your life, and I have to say, more than a few of this are objectively awful, even if you rule out the possibility for kitsch.


Can you rehabilitate a bottle of wine that has gotten a little tainted by mold/mildew/general stank?

I've done some cursory Googling on the subject but I'm not finding anything that answers my question. So I'll just tell you my story and you can tell me yours and we can rejoice in the wonders of blogs and community journalism.

The night after I popped open my positively reviewed bottle of Blackstone Pinot Noir, I poured myself another glass of the stuff and right away knew that something was wrong. It smelled kinda funky, kinda mildewy or moldy or something — wet and murky and gross. I sniffed the cork (it's a real cork, not rubber or whatever those newfangled whippersnapper winemakers use these days) and sure enough it smelled a little on the ass-y side. I sniffed the bottle and it smelled the same. I tried to drink the glass of ass wine and it tasted grody. Completely unlike the night before, when it had been understated and lovely. I was upset — as upset as one can be over a $10 bottle of wine — and poured out the remaining third of the glass after I could gulp down no more.

But, not feeling cheeky enough to throw out the rest of the bottle (about half), I just let the thing sit on my counter, corkless. This morning I got the bright idea to cover it up somehow without using the nasty-ass cork. Being completely ignorant of the myriad complicated chemical reactions involving air required to make a bottle of wine taste good, I figured I'd just improvise using found objects and cover up the damn thing so at least flies wouldn't get in it. So I got a sandwich baggie and placed it loosely over the bottle, leaving a bubble of air at the top in case the thing needed to expand for whatever ridiculous reason, and I snapped a thin (hair) rubber band around the baggie at the neck a couple of times.

Tonight I came home from work and polished of the remaining Zin and, not wanting to dip into my Thanksgiving arsenal but still wanting to celebrate another successful day of not killing people at work, I took the baggie off the bottle and took a sniff.

And you know what? That shit smelled normal again. I took the baggie off and poured a glass and the wine tastes virtually the same as it did the day I popped the rotten cork, before the rot made its way to the wine.

So I don't know if this technique could work for any or all types of wine (I doubt it strongly, despite my general ignorance), but it seems to have worked in this case.

Anybody got the goods on the science? I'd sure like to know.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Women and wine

My very first Wineography link dump! Someone take a screenshot!

Art and wine: The South Okanagan (that's way up in British Columbia) Women in Need Society has joined up with Therapy Vineyards for a fund-raiser in which local artists are called to submit artwork that will appear on an upcoming new wine made especially for the fund-raiser. Five dollars from each bottle sold will go to the fund-raising effort. Full story.

Ith a lady!*: As the traditionally male-dominated field of the sommelier sees more and more female wine experts, women sommeliers find that their clients sometimes are surprised and even angered by their lack of a penis, as if a penis is required for proper tastebud function. Full story.

Against the odds: Chilean Maria Luz Marin faced immense skepticism from everyone around her when she decided to become a winemaker. In a rare dream-come-true story, she has defied everyone's expectations and is now one of the world's most renowned and innovative winemakers. Full story.

*I heart Tim Meadows.

Smooth operator: Blackstone Pinot Noir

There is something lovely about a wine with enough poise and grace to step back and let its flavor and essence wash lightly over your tongue and seep into your consciousness, instead of dropkicking your uvula and giving your nose a painful uppercut and calling it a pansy.

Blackstone Pinot Noir, if anything, is soft-spoken and lovely. And way more sophisticated than I am, as far as I can tell. Which makes it the perfect sort of social sipping wine, to be enjoyed by itself or with dainty little finger foods. There's no wincing to get it down; the alcohol's presence is refreshingly muted and even the scent is kind of nice in a musky perfume kind of way. There are notes of smooth jam and cherry. My only complaint about Blackstone Pinot is that it's not quite as complex as I like Pinot to be. The finish is relatively short and doesn't really leave you with much to ponder. Other than, Damn, I'd like to have another glass.

At about $10, this seems like a great candidate for an exoteric crowd-pleasing wine for people who are not insufferable winos. So allow me to add this to the list of varieties to take home to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. And if no one else likes it, I guess I'll just have to take care of it myself.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Your thoughts: What shall we drink on Thanksgiving?

I grew up in a household where alcohol was, if not demonized, scrutinized to the point of being so taboo that I looked upon adults who drank even a beer with dinner or during a football game as morally suspect.

I'll never forget the time my parents got in a fight and my dad left the house for a few hours. I found out he had gone away to drink a beer!!! and, for a time, it changed the way I felt about his standing as the Most Perfect Man Ever. (First person to say the word "Electra" gets a good smack upside the head; Freud is not allowed on this blog.)

These days I'm in many ways grateful for such a rigid upbringing, because it kept my ass out of trouble knowing that my parents would kick said ass if I went out and got drunk before I went off to college and became legal age. And even then, if I made enough of a fool out of myself.

Now that I'm well within my legal right to drink and my brother isn't a kid anymore, it's funny to watch the ways in which my family's attitudes toward drinking have changed. Since becoming a wine wonk, I am always bringing home stuff for the family to try, and the spirits flow much more freely than they did during my childhood.

The family transformation actually happened before I started getting into wine, so I can't take credit for their debauchification. During my first couple of years of college, I would come home periodically to find fruity winecoolers in the fridge. And while you might think fruity winecoolers sound like something my mom would drink, fruity winecoolers are the province of my father, the Turner alpha male. Never a devoted beer drinker, he found his niche in the fuzzy navels and the flavored Zimas of the world. He usually falls asleep before he can get too drunk, though, so they just give him a nice warm feeling before he dozes off.

Lately the real drinkin' in the family is done by my mom and my grandmother and me when I come to visit. (And my underage brother when he can get away with it, which he does with alarming frequency considering I was never allowed to sit at the kitchen table and drink peppermint schnapps in front of my parents.) And my mom and my grandmother totally drink because I bring them good wine.

And that makes me feel awesome, because a couple of glasses of wine can make any evening with the Turners even more interesting than it is already.

A few summers back, I would come home with vodka and peach schnapps and juice and make cocktails for everyone. It was tedious. Now, I just bring a couple of bottles of wine and uncork them, and I don't have to do any work at all. It's great.

I've learned that they like whites better than reds, and that the fruitier the better. (My grandmother recently brought over some elderberry Manishevitz, which tasted like straight-up sugarplum juice, but she swore a doctor told her it would improve her immune system, so she takes two tablespoons a night.) They enjoyed the Relax Riesling I brought, along with some others I've forgotten about by now.

So I'm trying to plan what to take home for Thanksgiving. I've already picked up a bottle of Fetzer Guwurtztraminer, which they both raved about two weeks ago when we tried it (I wasn't as crazy about it, but it's still a solid wine I'd gladly have with Thanksgiving dinner). Now I'm looking for one or two more — a white and a red, preferably — to offer up with the standard Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce and macaroni and green beans and bread and whatnot.

Maybe I should go for a white (a crowdpleaser) and a dessert wine for pecan pie and banana pudding.

Any suggestions? What's on your table this Thanksgiving?

Finally, a Zin I don't hate

The last time I bought a Zinfandel, it was a Ravenswood and I hated it. The moment I choked down the final glass, I swore to myself that I'd never bother with Zin again. There was just something foul about it — it was too in-your-face, too unapologetically nasty for me to enjoy.

I guess it could have been that particular bottle that had gotten a little too ripe, but I assumed I just wasn't synching with Zinfandel.

Well, there's hope.

On a whim, while distracted from my original mission to buy some Beaujolais Noveau, I decided I'd give Zin another try. I was feeling charitible, I guess, and kind of boxed in since I really tend to stick to my Cab/Pinot Noir routine quite rigidly. So I brought home some Bogle Old Vine 2004 Zin.

And I don't hate it!

Too bad I wasn't wineblogging back when I had that Ravenswood crap, so I could remember what put me off about it.

The Bogle is complex and spicy, with deep notes of masculine stuff like tobacco and oak and chocolate, and just a hint of the more jammy flavors — blackberries and black cherries. It seems to me to be a very utilitarian wine, something you'd seek out to pair with a specific dish instead of something you'd just open up and swill at your leisure.

Even its scent is a mite serious.

This wine would never break its curfew or go out without at least $20 in cash.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé ... apparently

From local blog Information-Bureau:

It's the third Thursday in November, and you know what that means: Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Nouveau is a red wine, different from most wines because it's meant to be drunk immediately, rather than aged. It's produced using a different fermentation process of some kind (I won't pretend to understand the details), which allows it to be ready much sooner than most wines. And its release is strictly controlled; no matter where in the world you are, wine sellers are forbidden to sell it before midnight on the third Thursday of November.

The backstory is interesting; this is basically a hugely successful marketing gimmick. As I understand the story, Nouveau was considered an inferior trash-wine until, in the '60s, Georges Duboeuf came up with the idea of making a big production out of its annual release, having big parties, etc.

Unlike most reds, it's meant to be drunk chilled. Being so young and without the mellowing effects of aging, this is not a wine to be drunk slowly and savored; drink it in quantity, and quickly. Cork-dorks (of which I am not one) consider it the wine equivalent of Hawaiian Punch: Totally devoid of subtlety or craftsmanship, as nuanced as a Big Mac.

As a pathetically uninformed aspiring cork-dork, I know nothing about Beaujolais Nouveau Day beyond what I've read at I-B and the linked articles, but it sounds like my kind of day. I'm off work, so maybe I can hunt around town for a bottle today, get all drunk and sentimental and then go sway to some introspective modern folk-rock by one of my favorite artists.

Should be an awesome day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Question One: Booze Edition

While Tennesseans have spent the past several months pondering our own ballot questions, the fine folks of Massachusetts (I'm ashamed that I just had to look up how to spell that) have just finished wrangling over whether or not they want to be able to buy wine in supermarkets.

And the people have spoken and sent a resounding HELL NO to the powers that be.

Alls I can say is Whaaa?

As a resident of a state with wacky liquor-related laws, I am continually fascinated with the idea of purchasing spirits in other locations than seedy liquor stores where they shove everything in a brown bag inside another brown bag, so the God-fearing people on the streets don't have to be confronted with the knowledge that you, at some point in the future, are going to get a little tipsy and commit a social faux pas that will haunt you 'til your lonely, pathetic death.

So when I see a relatively progressive state like Massachusetts pooh-pooh the idea of strolling from the toilet paper to the orange juice to the dry reds, I marvel at the weirdness. Who wouldn't want to be able to buy booze in the damned grocery store?

Other than package-store owners, that is.

Apparently the liquor lobby pulled a Hail Mary to come from behind and defeat the ballot initiative.

Polls taken two weeks before the election showed Question 1 favored by a two-to-one margin among those surveyed. The opponents blitzed TV and radio airwaves with ads portraying the proposal as a public safety issue. They claimed teenagers would be more likely to obtain alcohol because convenience stores also could apply for wine licenses if the question were approved.

Right. Because teens are all about waltzing into a Piggly Wiggly to buy a $16 bottle of wine when they could just go to MapCo and buy $8 worth of beers and get equally as drunk.

Anyway, too bad for Massachusettianistans. I feel their pain. The lack of availability of wine in grocery stores confounds me. Not only does it suck outright having to hoof it to a liquor store — which, thanks to the laws 'round these parts, close at 11 p.m. on every night but Sunday, when they're not open at all — but it also undoubtedly keeps prices from being very competitive across the board. Just imagine the creative discounts the supermarkets and liquor stores could launch to best one another. Just imagine the savings! Just imagine the slurred speech and stumbling and fuzzy holiday memories!

Maybe one day, when Tennessee is done putting Teh Gays in their place, we'll tackle an initiative like this.