I’ve always wanted a wine fridge–you know, something in which I could store 16 or 32 bottles of ageworthy wine. There are three reasons I never took the plunge and purchased one, however. First, they obviously cost money. Second, it seemed sort of pointless to me to collect rare and expensive wines while I was in DC, only to have to move them–at great cost and effort, and taking them from the protective cocoon for which I would have shelled out a few hundred dollars–across the country upon my graduation. Third, many of the personal wine fridges do not control for humidity: they keep the bottles cool but at the risk of potentially drying out the corks.
Thus, my efforts to become a serious wine collector were put on hold for the past three years. BUT NO LONGER! “How?” I hear you, my one reader, asking.
I am back at home now (though I haven’t been able to have much fun… “Spring Break” for law school means “catch up with all the work you haven’t done / do all the work you’ve been assigned over Spring Break,” and I’m also busy with my very late moral character and fitness application for the state bar and with studying for the MPRE) and, as breaks from work, I have been cooking quite often. For instance, on Monday evening I made choucroute garnie and on Tuesday I made roasted lemon chicken with roasted pine nut and lemon cous cous and sauteed broccolini. One of the standout wines from this week? The 2000 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva, an 11-freaking-year-old rosé!!!
Made from 30% Tempranillo, 60% Garnacho, and 10% Viura, this wine is an absolutely gorgeous copper/salmon color. I am at a loss to describe this wine–there’s definitely oxidation from the long aging (four and a half years in barrel and five and a half in bottle before release!!!), something approaching savory and tangy, with metallic notes and just the suggestion of cantaloupe. I don’t think anyone else in my family really liked this wine: this is not a bottle you’d take to a casual barbecue. However, at $27.99, this is a fantastic wine to bring to a tasting of esoteric wines, and a terrific way to try a Gran Reserva at a very low price.
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.
What a beautiful place, Berkeley. I didn’t really enjoy the place until late in my college career–perhaps starting my fourth year, definitely my fifth year. I have been back up numerous times, but through a number of reasons was unable to do so for nearly the past year and a half–far too long in my book. Thus, I planned to visit the Bay Area for a spell of a few days after my exciting and rainy adventure in New York the previous week.
The concrete reason for my trip was to visit two of my former residents (and current friends), Semra and Kana, and their awesome apartment up in the hills on North Side. There was a sentimental reason, too–namely, that all of my residents and thus the vast majority of the people I knew in Berkeley would be graduating and leaving for the big vast world after college.
There was a oenological reason, too: I wanted to drink a lot of great wine!
Again, as in my New York post, I’m going to just write down phrases that will hopefully serve to jog my memory when I’m looking back after a few decades. =)
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.
Unless you are a winemaker or, say, this guy, work sucks. I don’t care how much you get paid, or how “rewarding” the job is–work is work, and work by definition sucks. Getting up in the morning, beating traffic, then getting harassed by customers for 8 or 9 hours straight is not exactly my definition of the “best day ever”, though of course there’s much worse!
I work on the sales team for the business department; there are other departments with their own sales teams. The estate planning sales team recently moved into the ground floor suite with my team. To “facilitate” this move, the LegalZoom administration funded a wine and cheese mixer in one of our conference rooms for Wednesday.
Needless to say, I was very keen on who, exactly, would be choosing the wine. I was delighted to hear that Heather from HR was the one assigned to purchase the food and wine. Heather knows her wine: in the days leading up to the event I e-mailed her repeatedly about her wine preferences and what she thought she would purchase. Tempranillo? Some sort of Rhone-style blend? As for whites, she settled on an unoaked or at least neutral-oak chardonnay.
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.
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.
Yet another tasting at Mission Wines, this time with my co-workers: Erica, who resembles a surly Irishman the more she drinks; Denny, the soft-spoken yet outrageous DJ who somehow lost his way coming back from the restroom to his turntables at some dark club and found himself working in a cubicle on the ground floor of LegalZoom.com; and Katherine, a newbie whose only distinguishing feature to me at the present time is her being Korean. And female. (Kidding, Katherine! You’re not female.)
Manning (Peyton? Eli? Archie or Cooper?) or, if you will, womanning the bar was Debbie, a delightful woman who crossed over years back from Colorado to pursue a love of wine. Heck, I would drive hundreds of miles for wine. In fact, that’s the primary reason I head up to Berkeley so often (sorry Jonathan!). She served us the five wines on the menu, as well as two more “bonus” pours.
The wines were:
J. Hofstatter “De Vite” Pinot Grigio | Alto Adige, Italy | 2005 | $11.99
We took turns writing tasting notes. My notes for this wine were “uber-light.” Kat’s notes were a star surrounded by a circle, along with the word “unfabulous”, which I’m not even sure is a word (thanks, spell check!). This pinot grigio was too light, too insubstantial. It was citrusy, which isn’t a bad thing, but to my palate at least it also seemed to have that plasticine taste I abhor in whites. As Mark Oldman notes in his Guide to Outsmarting Wine, much pinot grigio is “often like experiencing an IKEA rug, Ben Stein’s voice, or a dose of Paxil: neutral, monotone, and devoid of highs.” And watery. The region of Alto Adige is apparently home to some more “interesting versions” of pinot grigio, but this particular bottle was not one of them.
I have to admit that I am a bit of a wine snob (as if this blog weren’t proof enough!). I go for “artisanal” or quirky wines, or wines from obscure French domaines and Spanish bodegas. When it comes to huge wine conglomerates like Kendall-Jackson, Robert Mondavi, etc., etc., I usually turn up my nose in disdain.
But as Mark Oldman points out in his entertaining, easily-accessible, and informative book Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine: 108 Ingenious Shortcuts to Navigate the World of Wine with Confidence and Style (link to Amazon here!), there are many low-cost, high-value wines out there from winemakers I felt were “too big” or “too successful”.
Call it the Green Day syndrome of wine.
At any rate, one of the producers he mentioned numerous times as consistently satisfying was Chateau Ste. Michelle. Never mind that this winery is in Washington state and has a name like a bad French domaine. It is Washington’s oldest “and most acclaimed” winery, and its labels can be seen in supermarket aisles everywhere:
For “hip” young wine drinkers like me, this ubiquity was a death knell.
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.