Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Me, Myself and Irene and Eight Rosés

Rosé, you say?  Hell yeah I say! Coming off a 20-year stint in San Diego I can honestly say rosé imbibing is alive and well on the west coast.  But the east coast?

A couple months back I received an email newsletter from the  Blue Talon Bistro in Colonial Williamsburg touting that they were sporting a huge list of rosés by the glass.  Well, as you can imagine, I sauntered over to find out just exactly what they were sporting.  I contacted Adam Steely, Owner, General Manager and wine buyer for the Bistro and mentioned I"d love to try some rosés.  I don't think I finished typing the message and he answered!  (Not because I command attention, he's just an exceptionally nice guy and genuinely passionate about wine.)

Adam Steely, Blue Talon Bistro
So this past Friday, just before the hurricane mind you, with notebook and phone camera in hand my mouth began to water at the mystery of what I'd be tasting.  And of course Adam was there to greet me, he sat me down at the bar and poured me 4 of 8 rosés.  What's so endearing about Blue Talon is that they make their customers feel welcome, always.  I've eaten there several times, from brunch to half-price wine night Tuesday to lunch and I"ve always had a wonderful time.  Nothing is ever perfect, but the funny thing about perfect is that it doesn't exist.  And that's why I like the Bistro:  good people, good food, better wines, always a good time--and that is true life experience.  

2010 Rosé me:
Vina Altaba Bobal, Manchuela SpainStrange fact about the bobal grape is that it carries the same genetics as tempranillo, garnacha and mourvedre--all fine wine varieties but it doesn't seem to carry the same weight.  Sure, it can be fickle, and it requires super hot conditions to properly grow and the best wines come from 40 year old wines, but its ageing potential is phenomenal and it contains higher than average quantities of resveratrol. Good news for me--I loved this rosé!  Right away on the nose is biscuits and dried earth, then rose petals flutter around.  And on the palate it's the same, with puckery, slightly just-before-ripe strawberries and finishes with that earthly rose petal velvetiness.  Drink more bobal!!!

Chateau Grande Cassagne Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Costieres de Nimes FranceThe Darde Brothers do it once again near the village of St. Gilles in the Rhone Valley.  Always a structured wine, full of lemon-lime zippy acidity coupled with delicate notes of strawberries and Rainier cherries. This is a big winner in San Diego.

Quo Grenache, Campo de Borja SpainWinemaker Roberto Perez Martinez is making exceptional wines in The Ebro River Valley on the eastern side of Spain.  With vines at an elevation of 1000 - 2000 feet and hand-picked grapes, this wine is a must-try! Extremely fruity and "sweet" nose with hints of cherry and cranberry and the mouthfeel follows with a hint of tannin, revealing a bigger wine than I thought it would be.  Interesting label art as well.
Bender Zweigelt, Pfalz GermanyIn the wine world, Andreas Bender is a young'n--born in 1980, what he lacks in years he more than makes up for in his modern wine philosophies.  He grew up among the vines in his Father's vineyards in Mosel, Germany, but young Andreas wanted something more, and styles himself as a "maverick" winemaker. His rosé is a testament to that thinking with its gorgeous salmon-colour and nose of fresh garlic--woops, the gentlemen seated next to me ordered mussels robed in garlic, shallots and white wine and the scent is heady! I'm still saying young garlic, but then ripe strawberry appears.  Quite acidic and racy but incredibly delicious with a long finish. A young winemaker to watch.

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Syrah, Grenache, Vin de Pays de l'Herault Languedoc
I must admit, this has always been a favourite of mine.  The Moulin line is actually a second label of the Mas de Daumas winery, under the ever-wondrous Guibert family.  They wanted to produce fun, inviting wines that pay tribute to the surrounding rocky, hilly countryside so they paired up with a co-op in the coastal town of Sete.  Right away notes of ginger and liquorice explode from the glass, then I always get a bit of pasta water from the Guilhem, a distinct marker for me.  Acid is apparent but not too in-your-face and this rosé finishes long with a candy twinge--fun!

Laurent Miquel Cinsault, Syrah, LanguedocThe Miquel family has been working the vines in the Languedoc hills for over 8 centuries!  Ponder that for a moment won't ya.  So, I suppose they'd better be doing something right.  Hello!!!! Bright, rosey pink colour that is just a blast to swirl.  It's spice city here, and with the last remnants of the garlic-shallot mussels to my right the scents are powerful.  Strawberry and cherry pop out with hints of dry stone minerals.  A long finish completes this beautiful wine.

Chateau de la Selve Maguelonne Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Coteaux de l’Ardèche I recently found their website and it's killer! All sorts of information regarding soil composition and what varietals grow best on which vineyard site--tells you the background information for what you're experiencing in the wine.  Delicate asian apple, strawberry, and a little bit of white flowers.  Finishes beautifully with a punch of minerality. 

Famille Bougrier, Caves de L'Angevine d'Anjou Gamay noir, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Loire ValleyI am not a fan of slightly sweet rosé--or I thought I wasn't.  This wine threw me and I wasn't expecting it and it felt good!  Of all the rosés, it had the most intriguing nose.  It came off gritty, dusty, with large stones mixed in for good measure.  And I thought, "hey, this is going to wow me."  The wine hit my palate and I was totally floored:  slightly sweet, slightly tart strawberry/raspberry jolly rancher!  Not what I was expecting and yet I'm so happy I tried it.  I might not have if I was told it had a touch of sweetness.

And that's why it's important to find a place in your neighborhood where you go and partake of a delicious meal, surrounded by individuals who you trust and who know the value of community, good food and good wine.  Big thanks to Adam Steely of Blue Talon Bistro and his lovely staff for a fantastic and eye-opening rosé  flight tasting.

It's not too late, get out there and bid a fond adieu to Summer with a few gorgeous rosés!


Monday, August 22, 2011

the new jerusalem, dude

I have become a glorified Independent Film Junkie—crazy about these humanly significant films.  I recently experienced, and I say “experienced” rather than watched, because these films push and pull and after the physical film is over, the metaphysical remains embedded in your being so much so that they shape thoughts and actions—experience.  Anyhoo, I kept passing over this film titled ‘Sabah’ because it didn’t seem particularly engrossing to me.  So, with a gorgeous case of insomnia looming, I decided to experience the film.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the intended effect but I’m relieved for it became the axis for this scop. (and I loved it.)
Young Syrian family immigrates to Toronto.  Highly liberal Father, who wanted a more open life for his son and two daughters, unexpectedly passes.  As the family ages without his influence, they revert to a Syrian culture:  a male-dominated environment.  Frankly, it makes sense.  Their main influencer is gone.  And I wonder if they had lived in the States would the outcome have been the same?  Would an American culture have had any influence on them? Or is that too broad? Should I have said an east / west United States culture or even more specific, state, county, city or village?
As Americans, how do we shape others?  What sets us apart from other cultures around the world.  We used to be called a melting pot, in use by 1780, the term referred to the assimilation of immigrants into one larger culture.  As much as this was good at the time, flash forward to about 1970 where folks didn’t necessarily think this was such a good idea.  Proponents of multiculturalism proposed something a little different:  the term mosaic, which refers to distinct individuality within the whole.  My grandfather, who came over on “the boat” as a little boy, returned to Ellis Island as a man, a man who carried a wet rag to erase chalk marks the “authorities” placed upon the shoulders of those people who weren’t as good as the rest, those that may not be easily accepted for whatever reason.
For that matter, how do we influence other Americans? And now I can’t help but make the leap to our wine culture.  Do we chalk mark those viticultural areas and grapes that we don’t deem as important as other areas and varietals? Do we discriminate grape varietals?  Do only vitis vinifera varietals make good wine? Are we grouping all of our wines together, and not seeing the varied microclimates?
I asked the above to a new friend of mine, Denise who works at one of my favourite places in the Burg right now, World of Wine, and she said, “the essence of…what is the American culture of wine, I think we need to look state by state; coast vs coast.”  She goes on to quote Kermit Lynch:  “We Americans with our New World innocence and democratic sensibilities tend to think that all wines are created equal, and that differences in quality are simply a matter of taste.  The wines produced by each nation are different…. One understands the style of California wines better when one understands the pioneer spirit, and one cannot appreciate French wine with any depth of understanding without knowing how the French themselves look at their wines…..”
I recently tasted a few Virginia nortons and I thought they were structurally well-made, delicious wines, tasting of salty bacon fat, dusty pez candies, light spice and a haunting savoury woodsiness on the back end.
Norton belongs to vitis aestivalis which is pest resistant and cold-hardy but, unfortunately, is difficult to propagate through dormant cuttings, the primary commercial means of propagation. As one of the oldest known American cultivars, the official heritage of norton is still debated, although most believe it to be a hybrid between aestivalis and vinifera.
According to Jack Keller, the “father” of wine blogging, “If people allowed their senses to taste the wines without engaging their biased brains, many non-vinifera wines would be best sellers.”
The point is this: America is an infant on the stage of the world's wine regions. We have the dirt, the climate and the passion, but in our attempts to legitimize our wines, we give them French and Italian sounding names. We use the grape varieties that spent millennia adapting to climates that are not ours, and with some early success we have developed a façade of culture, one that's not yet earned. In other words, we are the lusty rakes throwing our grappling hooks over the walls of Burgundy's Clos Vougeot, trying to co-opt wine culture rather than evolve our own. And as often happens in fables, the treasures can turn to dust. We want to steal the luster from the Tour d'Argent. We may not have earned a proper American wine culture yet, but we're on our way. All we have to do is take deep breaths, cook our hearts out, and sit at table with friends, food and good bottles (and maybe leave the smartphones in the car). Wine can't be appreciated in a vacuum, it has to become an integral part of our lives.
Those of us alive today aren't likely to see an American wine culture that has divorced itself from Europe. A wine tradition defines itself over centuries as generations of vintners incorporate new grape varietals that, mutating from the cuttings that spawned them, exquisitely adapt themselves to the soil and situation they find themselves in. Understanding how regional wines mesh with local game and produce at the table is what creates an authentic cultural experience, one so primally rewarding it's repeated, and over time becomes tradition. The real sign of progress is not in putting "Chateau" on your label, but in being European with your patience, in giving the American wine scene a few relaxed centuries to evolve. " (Wes Hagen is the vineyard manager and winemaker at Clos Pepe in Santa Rita Hills, California.)
I’d like to think Americans can have a culture of acceptance, a culture of “dude.”  Ooh, I like that.  Seriously, think about that word, by changing our inflections and facial expressions, that one word conveys all that you’re saying, but inherently, remains unchanged.  Dude.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Are you with me, Kyra?

So I've been in Vegas this past week and needless to say I've never been a big fan.  The Hubs had a conference here and since he was kind enough to accompany me for mine and since we can now travel together again (see previous post, Sea of Change #44) I figured it would be a nice respite to the emptiness that is the Burg house.

TV!!! Since we moved to the Burg we never bothered to get another fool tube and now I know why:  there's nothing worthwhile! Like now, for instance--it's Sunday morning and I'm waiting around so I can get our seat assignments for Southwest and I stumbled on something called Nashville and Cash, (or something like that) about two young lawyers--absolutely ridiculous.  What fool said this shit is entertaining? Click. I kid you not, the only shows worthwhile are the real life crime shows.  At least these are concerning plausable human beings, albeit horrific, but at least it's real.

Anyhell, speaking of violence, it's been many years since I visited Vegas and what I do remember is the filth, always the juxtaposition between the beautiful, clean hotel structures and the dirty streets.  Not now.  Streets are clean, porn sheets are all behind those glass newspaper doors. And although I haven't been out too much, except to the pool, the work parties that we've attended have been fun, in fact, I've spoken more to tech people than I did at my own wine conference. I suppose I've nothing to lose and most folks seemed eager to talk of something other than techie geek jargon.  And for a few days it's all good.  Until...

Reclining at the pool, minding my own business, hoping my fat ass isn't hanging out one side of my bikini and amid the cooling wet of the misters I hear:  "Hon, what do you think we saw more of last night, boobs or vagina?" He responds most emphatically, "vagina" and the whole Vegas revisited is shattered.  I start to lose it.  Then her voice changes and she starts screaming something about "stinky feet" and I can only assume that she's now talking to a child on her cell.  But the "stinky feet" reference gets me thinking about a southern Rhone wine I had and the lingering smell of puppy feet and now I don't know whether I should drown her in the shallow end or maybe leaving the pool area is best.  I chose to leave.  And I realize I'm in desperate need of wine.

I've abstained this trip--I had so much good and bad during the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 that I thought it a wise idea to take a break. But now I'm finding myself desperately wanting a glass, and not just any glass of wine, but a wine that I've had before, something familiar, something that I know will make me warm and fuzzy, a wine to soothe the savage beast.

And now I'm overwhelmed--the need to hold the bottle in my hands, feel its weight, its smooth coolness.  I know I'll remember if I purchased the bottle or if it was gifted and I'm comforted and now I'm yearning for the Burg, for my wine cabinet.  The scents in my nostrils, (stinky puppy feet, a Burgundy barnyard stink, the garrigue of Provence, that sexy smokiness of a Spanish Tempranillo) traveling up to my brain and the realization that I know it and it's not the alcohol for me but the connection it provides:  the vintage, and knowing the weather that year, I could imagine the vines at the moment of flowering, veraison, harvest, the people involved, and how the farmers and winemakers felt with a successful vintage, when they taste the finished wine and say, yes, we're ready to bottle. The feel of wet liquid on my lips, in my mouth, the swallow--and now I've become part of everything that went into the choreography that is this bottle, and I'm calmed.

Amid all the crap that we all see and hear on a daily basis, it's important to find that which calms, that which helps us, as human beings, create connections that make us feel a part of something larger than our individual lives.  Oh, I can taste it...

I was always with you.  I was.