Italian wine scares me.
I should qualify that statement. I love Italian wine, and I believe Italian wine is exciting, versatile, and absolutely divine, but I know very little about Italian wine in general. There’s the Piedmont with its Nebbiolo-based wines, then Tuscany with its Sangiovese-based wines, but come on! Aren’t clones for sci-fi movies or Star Wars? And can’t Italy just have a reasonable number of varietal–say, one hundred–instead of like… thirteen hundred (or up to 3,500)? It also doesn’t help that many of Italy’s greatest wines–Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, for instance–are expensive and, in the case of Nebbiolo-based wines, tannic monsters when young.
It is for all these reasons that, when it comes to that game of blind tasting, I am absolutely useless when I try to identify Italian wines. I can get Sangiovese, with its cherry and dried oregano notes, but I am just not as familiar with Italian wines as I am with French or Californian wines… not that I’m all that familiar with those, either!
Chances are, dear readers, that I will not be posting anytime soon. This is on account of law school finals, upon which–like a red wheelbarrow–so much depends. But, I fully expect to post with more regularity after April 30, a date which happens not only to be the day of my last final but also the day of my birth, 26 years prior.
This post won’t be one of my long narrative spiels but rather a placemarker for a few wines I feel I should record for perpetuity. The first I purchased for the occasion of James’s (of The Eaten Path fame) visit to DC: the 2006 Mas de Daumas Gassac from the Languedoc ($49.99). This wine is billed as “The Grand Cru of the Languedoc” and contains merlot, cabernet franc, tannat and pinot noir, as well as a collection of Italian grapes (nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto), chardonnay, viognier, chenin blanc, petit manseng, marsanne, roussanne, sercial, muscat and more. It’s a crazy wine, and I was aching to try it.
Another year, another few scores of bottles of wine. I’m not sure if the start of a new year necessarily engenders hope and thankfulness–usually, I feel more of a mix of relief and a creeping feeling that maybe my life is slipping past me–but 2009 in Washington, DC, has found me in a very thankful mood.
For one, I’m living in a nice, comfortable apartment with great food. I have a wonderful family that I appreciate more as I get older; great friends. I am going to a good law school with outstanding professors and classes. I have nothing to complain about, and I am going to try to be more appreciative of the incredible opportunities I’ve been given.
To kick off the new year, my roommate and I hosted a champagne and sparkling wine tasting, the details of which will be coming out in the upcoming Nota Bene (GW Law student newspaper); I will write up my blog observations on that evening a bit later. Suffice it to say that the big winner in the tasting were a beautiful sparkler from France, the Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc Reserve Brut ($12.99)–was, as I described it, “the group’s favorite, with a nose of hazelnut and toast, a light, almost ethereal mouthfeel, and notes of apple and pear.”
I’ll be leaving for DC very, very soon–I’m flying out there on the evening of August 2. Thus, I’m trying to spend some quality time with SoCal friends before I do.
Jonathan L., my erstwhile LegalZoom co-worker, poet, historian, and future Columbia grad student, was in the neighborhood. We’re both fond of wine, so we decided to have a bit to drink together before we again went our separate ways.
Where else than Lou?
Now keep in mind that we’re both going to be grad students in the near future; not only that, we’re both going to be living in rather expensive metropolitan areas. Personally, I had enough money that day for wine tasting or dinner but not both. Oh well. I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.
We met up at Lou at around 7 pm. The place was dead. There were, including us, seven patrons at that time. No matter. We had a job to do.
I love wine tasting–actually going to a wine bar to try a flight of different wines. Unfortunately, I don’t like WRITING about the tastings afterward because there are just so many to list. I can’t imagine how Robert Parker and Kermit Lynch do it (though, of course, they get paid $$$ to do so).
I took a few days off of work just to chill out and get my second wind, so to speak, before heading off to law school in July. Thursday and Friday were spent with the family doing nothing in particular, so Saturday afternoon was ripe for something fun: Mission Wines with the co-workers was in order.
The official lineup for the day was:
2006 Leitz Drachenstein Riesling
1996 Lopez de Heredia Gravonia
2005 Rauzan Despagne
2005 Foulaquier Pic St Loup
2005 Ridge Lytton Springs
Yet another tasting at Mission Wines, this time with my co-workers: Erica, who resembles a surly Irishman the more she drinks; Denny, the soft-spoken yet outrageous DJ who somehow lost his way coming back from the restroom to his turntables at some dark club and found himself working in a cubicle on the ground floor of LegalZoom.com; and Katherine, a newbie whose only distinguishing feature to me at the present time is her being Korean. And female. (Kidding, Katherine! You’re not female.)
Manning (Peyton? Eli? Archie or Cooper?) or, if you will, womanning the bar was Debbie, a delightful woman who crossed over years back from Colorado to pursue a love of wine. Heck, I would drive hundreds of miles for wine. In fact, that’s the primary reason I head up to Berkeley so often (sorry Jonathan!). She served us the five wines on the menu, as well as two more “bonus” pours.
The wines were:
J. Hofstatter “De Vite” Pinot Grigio | Alto Adige, Italy | 2005 | $11.99
We took turns writing tasting notes. My notes for this wine were “uber-light.” Kat’s notes were a star surrounded by a circle, along with the word “unfabulous”, which I’m not even sure is a word (thanks, spell check!). This pinot grigio was too light, too insubstantial. It was citrusy, which isn’t a bad thing, but to my palate at least it also seemed to have that plasticine taste I abhor in whites. As Mark Oldman notes in his Guide to Outsmarting Wine, much pinot grigio is “often like experiencing an IKEA rug, Ben Stein’s voice, or a dose of Paxil: neutral, monotone, and devoid of highs.” And watery. The region of Alto Adige is apparently home to some more “interesting versions” of pinot grigio, but this particular bottle was not one of them.