Archive | February, 2010

Prediction: California’s 2009 Vintage Will Be A Hot Mess

11 Feb

This according to the Los Angeles Times.  I’d be interested to see how the 2009 vintage turns out, however.  I am predicting it will produce two broad types of wine: a HUGE volume of swill and a large volume of super-sized alcohol bombs.

The article states the following:

For consumers, the year’s bounty is expected to bring more availability and cheaper prices for all types of California wine, particularly premium and ultra-premium wines.

But I don’t see how this is possible.  Premium and ultra-premium wines?  It is an immutable truth of winemaking that lower yields mean better wines.  Fewer grapes mean that a vine will focus its energy on whatever fruit it has, which is why (fine) winemakers everywhere prune, prune, prune like crazy.  This leads to more concentrated, intense grapes, which in turn lead to better wine.

This is what Kermit Lynch had to say about it in his fantastic book, Adventures on the Wine Route:

When his crop yields 40 hectoliters to the hectare (4,000 liters per hectare, or 2,200 bottles per acre), Paul [Tardieu] says he is satisfied.  For a cheap vin de pays it is a drastically minuscule production.  In an abundant year such as 1979, the Meursault vineyards in Burgundy yield twice as much juice per acre and the wine sells for five to six times the price of [Tardieu’s].

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A Winter Adventure: Braised Lamb Shanks

9 Feb

Part One: Starting the Day

School was cancelled these past two days, which means I haven’t been in class since Wednesday evening.  I’m hoping that tomorrow will be cancelled as well, which would mean I would be out of class for TWELVE days (I don’t have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, and this Monday is Presidents Day).  This is basically longer than my Spring Break, which is coming up at the end of February.

As my blog has indicated, I’ve been cooking a lot, eating well, and drinking a lot of great wines.  For instance, yesterday morning started with my making a bachelor’s breakfast skillet consisting of a layer of leftover mashed potatoes, two eggs, shredded cheddar cheese, thyme, and a whole lotta Tabasco sauce:

I had purchased two small 5″ Lodge cast-iron skillets for this very purpose but seldom use them.  I should more often.

Although this was a good introduction to the day, I had bigger ambitions for the evening.  See, my roommate Alex was coming home from Europe yesterday, and I figured I should welcome him back to the US of A with a proper meal of lamb shanks and butternut squash.

But how do I cook lamb shanks?

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The Quiet After the Storm: Two More Wines With Which to Get Through Snowmageddon

7 Feb

I’ve been on a wine-drinking and -writing bender lately.  Counterintuitively, I found that there’s something liberating about being trapped indoors by the falling snow: the physical fact of being kept indoors turns the mind inward as well, so there’s been plenty of time for reflection and self-analysis.

And of course, eating and drinking.

Added to the bottles thus far consumed during Snowmageddon are the two below:

The one on the left is a Riesling, the 2008 Selbach Riesling Spätlese ($14.99 from MacArthur Beverages).  I opened this for a dinner of mahi-mahi, wild rice, and roasted asparagus.  The mahi-mahi was pre-marinated, courtesy of Trader Joe’s, in a sweet-salty sauce, so I figured that the semi-sweet Spätlese would be a decent match.

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Preparing for Snowmageddon: Buy a LOT of Wine

6 Feb

As you  might have noticed by now, I am a native Californian, so it’s easy to surmise how crazy “Snowmageddon” is for me.  Snow itself is still sort of a foreign concept, so 30 INCHES of it is strange, indeed.  This is the view from my fifth-floor window in DC:

That being said, I went to Trader Joe’s on Thursday to stock up on foodstuffs.  Unfortunately, everyone and their mothers (literally) had the same idea, and the line wrapped all the way around the inside of the store and down the oils/pastas/nuts/dried fruits aisle.  Yikes!

What was more pleasant for me was going to MacArthur Beverages (as chronicled in a recent post) and then to Ansonia Wines to pick up some wine.  I’ve had the opportunity to have a friend or two over with whom to brave the cold, and we’ve gone through a few bottles of wine.

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A Joyful Wine: 2007 Côtes du Rhône “Cuvée Sélectionée par Kermit Lynch”

4 Feb

My joy is complete.

I just found a bus line–the D6–that takes me from 20th and L Street to MacArthur and V Street.  What’s at MacArthur and V Street?  Only one of the finest wine shops in the DC Metro area: Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages.

You might recall an earlier post where I purchased the bottles for a Spanish wine tasting from MacArthur.  My mission today was to pick up a bottle of the 2001 Penfolds “RWT” Barossa Valley Shiraz for a fancy Australian Shiraz tasting I’m having next week.  However, I ended up, as per usual, lingering for a bit, talking with Phil (an excellent wine steward who remembered that the last time I came in–last semester–I was wearing a suit and had picked up a bottle of the 1999 R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Gravonia” blanco), and picking up a whole lot more than I came in for.

I was in the mood to pick up nice, simple table wines–nothing too pricey but still offering good quality to price.  Something like the 2008 Vin de Pays du Vaucluse from Domaine de Durban, an $8.99 table red made mostly of Grenache from Kermit Lynch that was just so fun and delicious to drink.


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The Great Ridge Zinfandel Line-Up: Or, Yet Another Reason Why California is the Best State

4 Feb

One of my favorite pastimes in DC is to discuss ways in which California is superior to every other state.  This usually takes place in the company of fellow Californians, as people who aren’t from Cali simply can’t comprehend how their domiciles are inferior.

All kidding aside, California does have a lot going for it.  This being a wine blog, I will restrict the discussion of California’s awesomeness to wine.  Of course, there’s Napa.  Sonoma.  Paso Robles.  There’s Cabernet.  There’s Pinot.  There’s Chardonnay.  Etc., etc., etc.

But just as overexposure to sun can lead to premature wrinkles and skin cancer, and being in the shadow of Hollywood creates self-aggrandizers, posers, and shallow B-list types, so can the sun lead to huge, overly-ripe wines, and so can being in the shadow of Napa create wines that, in undergoing sugar Botox and oak augmentation, have become caricatures.

Thus, there are so many California Cabs that are as undrinkably oaky, and California Chards that leave nothing to the imagination.  Hence my migration towards the refined, subtle graces of Burgundies.

Thank God for Zinfandels.

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100th Post on Vinicultured!

1 Feb

There are many different reasons for why one does anything, reasons that may be small and large, significant and trivial, obvious and perhaps unknowable even to oneself.  Certainly, there are many reasons one decides to write a wine blog.  Learning how to budget was not one of them, but there were things like wanting to learn more about wine, wanting to practice how to write, and wanting to become part of a community.  I loved drinking wine; I loved talking about it, and I loved the culture and ceremony around this most noble of beverages.

But of course, there are still other reasons.

My first post is dated December 23, 2007.  2007 was a very tough year for me and innumerable others.  We lost a wonderful friend that June, and this world lost out on an incredibly talented, beautiful, and giving young woman.

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