Tag Archives: shiraz

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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What Kind of Wine Would YOU Be?

3 Mar

I’m an aspiring writer of poems (“poet” seems a bit… pretentious… at least at this point). Maybe you could make it broader and say that I’m just an aspiring writer. As such, I’m always finding the symbolism in this life. After all, what else is our consciousness except for symbols?

Philosophy and semantics aside, I’ve thought a lot about the symbolism inherent in wine. There’s a lot: the land as woman, the farmer as man (I know, I know–some might object to this rather antiquated system, but it’s there, and I’m sticking to it); the grapes as the land; the vineyard as the soul of the land. Etc., etc., etc.

Quite a few posts back I wrote about how one of my earliest experiences with wine was with an older, beautiful junior transfer of Spanish extraction. Her skin was tanned and smooth; her eyes dark, her lips full and sensual. She held a bottle of syrah and offered me a glass. It was as if she was offering me the essence of life.

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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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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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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:

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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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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:

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(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
Cimicky

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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.