There is something therapeutic about seeing trees and towns and wide blue sky passing by you at 80 miles per hour as you sit in a car, listening to good music, on your way to somewhere. It is an added bonus when those trees are at that moment when they are still lush but where the leaves are no longer green but various hues of yellow, red, brown, and orange.
Such were the trees on the road on the way to Lexington, North Carolina, whose Barbecue Festival my friend James (of The Eaten Path fame), our friend Nick (of the US Patent and Trademark Office) and I attended this past weekend.
(Thank you to the Lexington BBQ Festival for this poster!)
For those of you who do not know of James by this point, he is one of my good friends from Berkeley who has for the last year called Brooklyn, New York home. While his more regular contributions to the blogosphere can be seen on The Eaten Path, he also is a huge aficionado of all things barbecued, once spending a few weeks traveling through the Smoky Crescent and eating and observing the best the South had to offer. It is one of his goals to publish a comprehensive and awesome book on barbecue–a noble goal, indeed.
Thus, when he said there was a barbecue festival in North Carolina I asked if I could go. I figured I wouldn’t have very many more chances to have a purpose to go to North Carolina, and besides, any reason to get out of DC is reason enough.
It’s strange being 25. I remember being a kid in grade school and looking up to the new young teachers, those who were obviously younger than people like Mrs. Donaldson or Mr. Kinter–people who had been at the game for years and years. They didn’t really know what they were doing yet, but they were bright and fun and energetic.
And now I might very well be older than they were at the time.
(My torts professor summed it up quite nicely when he quipped, “It’s a strange feeling when both the president-elect AND the chief justice are younger than you are.”)
Now that I’m a quarter century old, I feel as if I should be an adult. I certainly feel adult-like at certain moments–for instance, when I cook dinner, or when I go to the Ritz-Carlton for drinks (that one time!)–but sometimes feel as if I’m a child playing grownup. I think many of my peers feel the same way.
All that aside, it IS nice to get together and do grownup stuff–like hold wine tastings. My roommate and I decided to throw a wine tasting; I decided also to throw a wine tasting before that wine tasting to get the feel of things.
My brother and I were going to cook a tenderloin roast yesterday for dinner. This called for a red.
Not just any red–something that could stand up to thyme and rosemary. Something that would accentuate the lovely rareness and juiciness of the meat.
I was thinking of something from the Cotes-du-Rhone, but bleh. I haven’t been impressed with any of my selections from that region lately. I was at a loss as to what to get.
Luckily, Chris at Mission Wines had the perfect wine: the 2006 Tierra Prometida malbec from Bodegas Enosur, which is located in Mendoza, Argentina.
This wine is a solid malbec, dense but silky, tasting of plum and chocolate and a whiff of tobacco. With the roast the wine revealed notes of herb and pepper… very good match with the thyme and rosemary combination. The medium tannins of the Tierra Prometida worked well to cut through the “fat” of the tenderloin. There’s not a lot of fat on a tenderloin, anyway, so any more tannic wine might have been too much.
I tried some of the leftover wine tonight with Korean food: rice, kimchi, kalbi, and even some raw crab pickled in soy sauce. Surprisingly, the malbec went well with the spices and strange textures of the Korean food. There was just enough umami for the crab, enough body to counteract the acidity of the kimchi, and enough fruit for the kalbi. My usual aversion towards mixing sticky rice and wine (in my stomach, NOT in a bowl, mind you!) was overcome, and I had a very enjoyable meal.
I would highly recommend the Tierra Prometida. It might even be better than the Maipe malbec I love so much!
This is rare: a quick ‘n’ easy review of a single wine, divorced from my rants on coffee or family reminiscences or comparisons to women.
I went down to Chronicle Wine Cellar on the corner of California and Lake. (I have a Yelp review of this place here.) I love Chronicle Wine Cellar because it’s so small and unpretentious–it’s on the bottom floor of a rundown apartment building, for God’s sake! They also offer a very good selection of wines at dirt-cheap prices.
I spent all of $22.47 on three wines: the one I am drinking now is the “Sedna” malbec from Flavio Senetiner.
It’s a malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina, named after the furthest planet in our solar system.
I had selected a sparkling wine (for the ladies) and a rosé (because of the heat) and wanted to get a smooth-drinking, easy red to round out my trio. It was either between a shiraz from Australia or this malbec. Both were at the crazy price of $5.95.
I selected the malbec for the maybe fallacious reason that Argentina wines are generally cheaper as a whole than Australian wines–thus, I had more of a chance of finding a decent, cheap Argentinean wine than a decent, cheap Australian wine.
I am a huge fan of coffee. It shouldn’t be surprising, given that my earliest memories of family life were those of my father driving the Cadillac with one hand on the wheel and the other gripping a precariously full cup of coffee, and my mother daintily sipping from a mocha and eating delicate pirouettes at the Farmer’s Market. Having attended Berkeley and “studied” at its myriad cafes led me further down the coffee trail, and now, years from my first small sips of coffee and milk, I found myself at Groundwork Coffee Co., gawking at a flier that stated in no uncertain terms that I could, for a mere three dollars, have a 16-ounce cup of Panama “La Esmeralda Especial”.
This coffee varietal made waves for being sold at auction last year for $130 a POUND (and you thought Starbucks was expensive!). Groundwork managed to procure some from the same farm and was selling their beans for the slightly more manageable price of around $80 a pound. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many people willing to shell out that much for their morning joe.
Finally some free time in which to write about the remaining five wines from last Saturday’s Mission Wines tasting!
7 | 2004 Arzuaga Navarro Crianza | Ribera del Duero, Spain | $29.99
This was the seventh wine of the series, second round of overtime. Dave from Mission Wines was kind enough to pour the party a tasting of this really excellent tinto fino (as tempranillo is known in this region) from the dry river of Duero. Being a crianza, it was aged for thirteen months in oak. I was expecting it to be huge and powerful, expecting some forceful tannins (I’ve found tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is “stronger” or more assertive than those from Rioja), but this wine was surprisingly smooth. Plummy, a little hint of leather. I think this wine probably benefited from my having tried the tannic firebombs of the Barrel 27 and the Tejada beforehand. I would love to compare this one to the Tinto Pesquera, which is another wonderful tinto fino from Ribera del Duero.
(95% tinto fino, 3% merlot, 2% cabernet sauvignon)
8 | Sean H. Thackrey “Pleiades XVI” | Bolinas, California | $23.99
This is a crazy wine. Dave poured this for the party and told us to try and guess what it was. I sniffed and got menthol. A lot of menthol, as in eucalyptus. I also detected a bit of anise as well as other herbs.
This picture is from an older vintage, but you get the picture.
The taste was amazing and yet, very polarizing. No one else in my group liked it at all. Erica compared it to drinking rubbing alcohol. Someone else said it was like Listerine. I can understand: the menthol did impart a bit of a fiery element to the wine, and it did have a fair level of acid. However, it was complex and unlike any other wine I’ve ever had. Tar and citrus, earth and fruit. I don’t know quite how to describe it other than it’s probably the most interesting wine I’ve had in a while and one that every “serious” wine drinker should pick up.
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.
I love malbec. The best are sensual, sexy, full-bodied red wines that, at a price range between $7.99 – $11.99, are a great bargain.
It’s sort of an immigrant grape. One of the up to six grapes used in Bordeaux wines, it rarely took center stage except in other more “rustic” regions like Cahors. (One example is the really excellent Clos La Coutale from Cahors, which is a bit southeast of Bordeaux. The Clos La Coutale is 70% malbec, 15% merlot, and 15% tannat. This Kermit Lynch selection has the finesse and grace of a fine merlot but the suppleness of a Argentine malbec.) It took the importation of this grape to the New World in the mid-1800s to give malbec the home it deserved.
The growing conditions in South America–especially Argentina–were ideal for malbec, which requires more sun and heat than cabernet and merlot (its more famous compatriots). This allows for New World wines that are 100% malbec.
My favorite malbec is from Maipe, which is an intense, staining shade of deep purple. It almost pulses with an animal, sensual energy. There are dusty fruit aromas that, upon drinking, fill your mouth with an utterly satisfying, powerful explosion of plum, chocolate, earth. It’s a bronze fist covered with a silk glove. It is delicious by itself, with chocolate, with anything you can throw at it–I wouldn’t, however, pair it with fish or anything too delicate. The Maipe would destroy any gentle partner.
So after a hiatus consisting of a few days of unremarkable wine (a bottle of [yellow tail] shiraz seduced me with its fanciful clothing, slender, sleek neck, and cheap price–much to my regret) and long, dreary days at LegalZoom.com, I managed to catch up with my college friend Will Gordon. He was in town, visiting from Berkeley, and we dropped by my perennial favorite–the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax.
Dinner was at the dependable Monsieur Marcel, which has a wonderful ambiance in the evening. A beautiful, dark brunette smiled to me from the wine bar (at least, I thought it was me!), so things were already taking a turn for the better as we were seated.
I had a glass of rosé from Chateau de L’Escarelle–in Provence–made from cinsault and grenache. It was wonderful–absolutely breathtakingly fresh, full of ripe strawberry, not in the least bit cloying. It was light but had substantial heft for a rosé. And at $6.49 a glass (one of the less expensive wines on the menu) it was nice to my wallet. This wine reminded me of another wonderful rosé, the Rosé of Syrah from Ampelos Cellars of the Santa Rita Hills in California:
Will had a glass of the 2004 tempranillo from Bodegas Ercavio. It was fruitier than other tempranillos I’ve had–less vanilla from oak. (Maybe this is because Bodegas Ercavio is not in Rioja, which has a reputation for oakiness.) It was a light, pleasing red, and well-priced at $6.99.