Tag Archives: Australia

Tears of Morro, Tears of Joy

13 Jun

I’ve been back here in LA for a few weeks now and it’s great. We’ve been having a long spell of overcast, mild weather–perfect light sweater weather. That’s fine with me, especially since I escaped the heat and humidity of the East Coast so recently (as well as the steaming crucible of law school).

Thus, I’ve been able to go to Mission Wines, my favorite local wine spot here in little South Pasadena. I rounded up a crew of the usuals–William, his friend Sam, Chris M. and his gf, Sasha and his gf, and Jack M. from days yore–and we hit up the wine tasting this past Saturday. Manning the bar were the always dependable Dave and Matthew; Kirk from the Rose Bowl committee was there along with a spate of regulars.

The tasting started off with a 2008 Pierre-Marie Chermette “Les Griottes” Beaujolais rosé, made from gamay.  A Beaujolais rosé?  I mean, much Beaujolais is darn close to rosé, anyway.  Nonetheless, this was a nice wine with a vibrant pink color and an austere, slightly coppery taste.  It wasn’t sweet and not overtly fruity.  It was my first Beaujolais rosé, so I was delighted to have it be a positive experience.  

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All Grown Up: My First Hosted Wine Tastings

21 Nov

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.

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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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Farmer’s Market and Cost Plus Market

9 Jan

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.

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Keeping the Skies Safe from Exploding… Bottles of Wine?

1 Jan

(My thanks, first, to Joe for forwarding this article to me.)

I remember the days when I was able to wait for my brother, flying in from college in New York, right at the gate. Going to the airport sucks in general, but this fact was in part ameliorated by being able to kill time at the magazine rack, McDonald’s, or Starbucks. And, of course, there’s no substitute for the gratification of seeing a loved one after months of separation.

And then September 11th. Homeland Security. The Transportation Security Administration. Suddenly, you couldn’t wait at the gate. You had to stand with the other schmucks at baggage claim.

But that wasn’t nearly as bad as when, maybe less than two years ago, the TSA instituted the 3-1-1 Rule.

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A Wine Store for the People

25 Dec

I love Berkeley.

Actually, let me qualify that statement a bit: I have a love-hate relationship with Berkeley. But, as they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So, being at home now for nearly a year and five months, working at LegalZoom.com, I love Berkeley now more than I hate it.

One of the great things about Berkeley is the abundance of absolutely wonderful food and drink. There is a culture of organic produce, slow cooking, artisanal craftsmanship, and good living.

There are a lot of wine shops in Berkeley or in the surrounding areas. Kermit Lynch is the one everybody knows about–he imports all those small French producers and sells them retail at his store on San Pablo. Then there are Vino! locations everywhere–one on College in Oakland, another on Solano, one off of Fourth Street in Berkeley, another in San Francisco. The Andronico’s market on North Shattuck (accessible on the 7 or 9 buses, for you college kids!) is also surprisingly good.

I want to focus on “A Wine Store for the People”–Vintage Berkeley, which is appropriately on Vine Street near the original Peet’s Coffee:


(My apologies for blatantly ripping off this picture from the Vintage Berkeley webpage!)

The store itself is housed in a former water pumping station, which makes entering the place a whimsical experience (if only there were special pipes that carried wine instead of water… try taking a bath in that, eh?).

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Cimicky 2005 Grenache/Shiraz Trumps

23 Dec


A few weeks ago I was at a Saturday wine tasting at Mission Wines in South Pasadena with my co-worker Erica and her boyfriend Jack. A representative from Epicurean Wines came to display his company’s wares. Among the five selections were:

  1. Glaetzer 2006 Amon-Ra Shiraz (Barossa Valley)
  2. Glaetzer 2005 Godolphin Shiraz (Barossa Valley)
  3. Charles Cimicky 2005 Grenache/Shiraz Trumps (Barossa Valley)

There were two other wines–one was a sparkling shiraz which was interesting, and another was a rosé of some variety.

If you couldn’t tell by now, Epicurean Wines specializes in wines from Australia.

(An aside: one of the first wines I remember was a shiraz… I was a sophomore at Griffiths Hall in Unit 2, and a sultry and much more mature junior transfer named Veronica invited me to her room for a glass of wine. I don’t remember the name of the wine, but I remember thinking how well wine went with women [and alliteration, apparently]).

The Amon-Ra and Godolphin from Glaetzer were billed as the headliners of the tasting, and at $70 and $60, respectively, were a bit too expensive for this college grad’s wallet. They were delicious, to be sure, very full, very round, very “classic” shirazes. Erica bought a bottle of the Godolphin as a Christmas present for her mom. But the standout for me was the grenache/shiraz blend from Charles Cimicky.

Grenache itself is a very peppery, high-alcohol grape–to my untrained palate it is a bit sharp and seems to lack heft. Shiraz, on the other hand, is pretty hefty and very round. The Trumps blend is 60% grenache and 40% shiraz.

When I first tried it I was blown away by how high up in my mouth the flavors seemed to hit. Rather than staying low on the tongue like the other shirazes I have had, this one was elevated, rising up to my hard palate and floating through my nose. However, it was still grounded (it does have 40% shiraz, after all!) and overall was nicely balanced.

The price was right too: it retails for anywhere between $16 to $19. It was a family favorite as well–both my sister and mom loved it, and it’s hard to get them to agree about anything!

FOOD SUGGESTIONS: Lamb or barbecue, even chocolate.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: This is a very friendly, approachable wine. Easy on the budget. I think it’s a safe bet for a romantic evening or a dinner with friends.