Archive | February, 2008

Irouléguy: or, How Poorly Korean Food Matches with ANY Wine

28 Feb

I know–I know: I promised #2 of the long, memorable wine tasting from Saturday. That will come soon. First, I want to take the time to review a quirky little wine and talk about stuff such as ethnic food pairing and how the bouquet of every wine smells like cherries.

There. I’ve said it. Maybe it’s because I’m a “neo-oenophile”, but almost every red wine smells like cherry. Almost every wine is evocative of cherry. I suppose this is somewhat understandable, given that wine = fruit = cherry (I got a B- in second-semester calculus, so you can be sure the transitive property applies here!). However, oft is the time I’ve opened a new bottle, poured a bit of its content into the waiting glass, swirled the liquid around and around, and raised the globe to my nose to smell one and but one thing: cherry.

One recent wine stands out as an exception to this rule. The Pleiades from Sean Thackrey, one of the wines I had at the Saturday tasting, smelled overwhelmingly of menthol–as in eucalyptus–and anise–as in biscotti. Cherry, it was not. Delicious and unique, it was. More about that particular wine in the promised post!

Speaking of unique wines, or, more properly, wine regions, there’s an obscure little appellation in Southwestern France–just by the Spanish border–called Irouléguy. This runs into the Basque area of Spain, and many people here speak Basque in addition to French and Spanish. The majority of red wines produced in this area is made of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and, most importantly, tannat.

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An Extremely Long, Memorable Wine Tasting: Part One (#1 – 6)

24 Feb

LegalZoom = overtime. A lot of overtime. For instance, this means that once every three or four weeks we have to come in for half days on Saturday. Luckily, the time passed relatively quickly and I was able to drive down the 101 South to the 110 North, then exit Orange Grove, then make a left onto Mission Street and, two or three blocks past the Gold Line, pull into the familiar parking lot of Mission Wines and meet up with the usual motley crew of my co-workers, regulars, and newbies for an afternoon of conviviality.

Joining me in the 25-and-under group were some fellow “Zoomers”: Jonathan (not Jonathan Lewis from entries past), a film major from USC; Will, the Guatemalan martial artist who can squat-press over 1,000 pounds; Erica, of Coloradan extraction; and her boyfriend, Jack, the New Yorker accountant.

We were in for a treat: a wine broker was present for the tasting showcasing wines from his portfolio. This portends well because importers, winemakers, and brokers are pretty keen to put forth their best; Saturday was no exception. The five wines on the “official” tasting list were:

1 | 2006 Lioco Chardonnay | Sonoma, California | $19.99
I hate to admit it, but my palate’s not very refined. I sipped this chardonnay and thought I detected vanilla and oak. Hell, I was dead certain I detected vanilla and oak. The broker came over and told us some more about the wine, including the little fact that this chard had not been aged in oak. At all. It had not even touched neutral oak. All stainless steel. I did taste a lot of fruit–very tropical–and some nice acid. A bit of butter–not a big butterball like many other California chardonnays I’ve had. Overall, one of the better chardonnays I’ve had, though I would have to say that I still have never encountered a chardonnay I wanted to take home with me.

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The Dangers of Buying New Wine: or, How Picking Out Wine is a Lot Like Chinese Food

17 Feb

My family has really gotten behind my drinking–er, wine blog adventure. My brother won over my mom for me by saying I could make a lot of money in the upcoming years by selling ad space. Thus, my boozing has become synonymous with “investing for the future”, and if anyone has ever had ANY experience with Asian families, investing for the future = awesome.

Thus, it stands to reason that I must drink a lot of wine to produce the material for the blog. (Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, and every other writer known to man would probably attest to alcohol’s magical creative properties.) I’m not an economist, but I believe this is what’s known as the “trickle-down effect.” Right?

Over the past week I had three reds I’d like to write a bit about:

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The Third Bottle: Proverbial and Otherwise

11 Feb

I absolutely love to open new bottles of wine. It’s like going out with someone new… how balanced are they? How full-bodied? How… sweet?

At the same time, it’s hard for me to try new wines at home. There are only two large drinkers in my family: myself and my mom. Thus, there’s a chance that the great wine I opened the night before will just sit for two, or three, or four days and turn into a sour vinegar. Such a waste when wine should be consumed right then and there!

This is not just a problem I face at home. This was a very common phenomenon for me while I was at college (so long ago!). Sometimes I just felt like a glass of wine, but what to do with the other four (or three, depending on your point of view) glasses? It certainly didn’t help that my residents were waaaay underage.

I was lucky enough to be in the company of one Alex B., a Bavarian by extraction who revels in drinking as much as, say, the next Bavarian, which is to say, A LOT. I have had nights when I’ve foolishly chugged one or two bottles of cheap wine in the effort to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. With Mr. B., I tend to drink large volumes of alcohol, but always good, delicious alcohol.

And it is with Alex that we go through two or three bottles of wine, quite easily. This is no dainty wine tasting with spitting into little porcelain cups–nay, it is real drinking! And by the third bottle, I can no longer taste the nuances of a wine, but it is so wonderful to rub my face.*

Thus is the raison d’etre for “The Third Bottle” red from GustavoThrace.

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Imagine a dinner party–maybe… six people… three couples, right? You gotta figure that in the average party there will be at least one person who drinks way more than average and at least one person who drinks way less than average. Say that this is a nice meal… appetizer, main course, dessert. Start off with a white… then move onto a light red, maybe a pinot…

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Chillin’ with Albariño in Silver Lake: or, How Getting Lost on the Way to Intelligentsia Coffee Prevented Jonathan From Being Mugged

10 Feb

After a week at LegalZoom, I need a good day of rest and relaxation. “Rest” for me means driving to two different wine shops, while “relaxation” means drinking wine.

I was joined by my college bud Jonathan Lewis, who seems to split his time evenly between Berkeley and Los Angeles. The plan was to visit Silverlake Wine, where I was to pick up four bottles of the Ampelos Rosé of Syrah for myself and some co-workers. I also wanted to visit Intelligentsia Coffee, a Chicago institution that had just recently headed west.

I had some time to kill beforehand, so I decided to take a trip down the 134 to Colorado Wine Company in Los Feliz first. Specifically, I wanted to pick up a bottle of “The Third Bottle” red from GustavoThrace. I paid my $9.99 + tax for the bottle and headed up the 2 to Silver Lake for my rendezvous.

This was the first time I ever visited Silverlake Wine. I was very impressed. The store is large and very well-laid out. The workers there are courteous, funny, and very helpful. There seems to be a steady flow of customers, and many of them have questions about wine pairings that the attendants seem to nail right away. They also have wine tastings, including one I just missed featuring Maynard Keenan, lead singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle. Apparently Maynard is a huge wine buff and has his own vineyard, where he makes his own wine!

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I was a bit early, so while waiting I had a bottle of the White Rascal Belgian white ale from Avery Brewing Company:

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It’s fuller than that other famous Belgian white ale, Hoegaarden, but has the same light, refreshing taste punctuated by orange zest and spice. Also, it was only $1.75 a bottle at Silverlake Wine, which makes for some good drinkin’.

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Spring in a Glass: 2006 Ampelos Rosé of Syrah

9 Feb

I am not the biggest fan of white wines. Anything lighter than, say, a pinot noir is subject to my intense scrutiny and occasional disdain. Even pinot noirs are not on safe ground: it’s the rare pinot that I like. Beaujolais and beaujolais nouveau are lighter than pinot noir but I like them for some reason–they’re whimsical, easygoing wines.

My first exposure to rosés was when I worked at Adagia Restaurant in Berkeley–specifically, we had Brander Vineyard’s Chateau Neuf de Pink and Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé. From what little I remember of those two wines, I liked Tempier–it had an austere quality, bone-dry. All I remember of Brander’s selection is chef Brian Beach poking fun at the name.

All in all, however, I was unimpressed. Reds–especially the brooding malbec and the sensual shiraz–were still my willing mistresses.

That changed when I tasted the Ampelos Rosé of Syrah last year. It was the late summer, hot as heck. “Teeth-staining” and “tannic” were not the qualities I was looking for in my wines, let alone any beverage. At a tasting they poured the Ampelos rosé and it was love at first taste.

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The Psychology of a Dying Party, or: The Elements of a Good Party

4 Feb

One of my favorite books is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.  It’s one of his shorter works, clocking in at only 228 pages as opposed to his masterpieces, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.  It’s also one of his “happier” books–though happier is a subjective term.  It’s happier than East of Eden but not a happy book.  It’s lighthearted at times, but lighthearted in the way only deeply profound insights can seem to be.

The plot doesn’t drive itself as much as it saunters and moseys easily along.  The basic plot is set in the Cannery Row district of Monterey and revolves around a cast of well-meaning bums trying to throw a party for Doc, who is the central figure of the story.  They throw one party that ends in disaster but, by the end of the book, are able to throw a party that is hugely successful.

(What does this have to do with wine?  Or anything, for that matter?  Patience.  Have another sip of your merlot.  I’m getting to it.)

As a former social chair at a fraternity and a catering assistant for almost three and a half years, I’ve seen my share of parties–both highly organized and wildly spontaneous.  I’ve seen seventy-year-olds get drunk off their minds at bar mitzvahs and what looked like seventeen-year-olds do keg stands in dark basements.  There are events complete with wine charms and little signs for different types of cheese, and others that aren’t planned as much as they arise from some primordial, yearning, post-pubescent muck.

What characterizes a good party?  And how can one ensure that the party one is throwing is a success?

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Nuevo Tango

2 Feb

I just came home from another tasting at Mission Wines. I love that place–most of all because it’s like five minutes from where I live.

So it stands to reason that I’ve had a bit to drink–actually, a lot to drink. But the alcohol has been somewhat counteracted by two soft tacos and a carne asada burrito, courtesy of the taco truck on the corner of Fair Oaks and Bellevue.

I’m at home right now, comfortably numb and full of good, hearty Mexican food. I’m listening to some nuevo tango: Pablo Ziegler & Quique Senesi. Pablo Ziegler apparently is the heir of Astor Piazzolla, that master of the bandoneón (a relative of the accordion that is especially popular in the tango music of Argentina) who originated nuevo tango, or new tango.

Nuevo tango is characterized by non-traditional elements, especially those of classical and jazz, incorporated into traditional Argentine tango. It is apparently derided by purists, but Astor Piazzolla and nuevo tango are a big reason why tango is as popular as it is outside of the Latin world.

I have a suggestion. Download “Adiós Nonino” off of the Live Lugano 13 Ottobre 1983, or Adiós Nonino album. Download “Escualo” and “Libertango” off the same album (the latter is one of Pizzaolla’s most popular pieces). Then, download “Milonga del Angel” off of Tango: Zero Hour. After you have been introduced to those singles, listen to “Los Mareados” by Pablo Ziegler.

And, if you can, listen to these with the lights off, a candle or two burning, some deep, dark malbec from Mendoza straining against its glass enclosure. Close your eyes. Smell the amber scent of her skin as she puts her cool hands over your eyes, and sink into the sensation of the bandoneón dueling with the violin for your heart against the throbbing pulse of the double bass.