Archive | September, 2013

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge 3: Time to vote

26 Sep

Please check out the entries in this Monty’s Winw Writing Challenge and, if so inclined vote for your favourite. Plus, you’ll really enjoy many of their regular posts about food and wine, so follow them too.

the winegetter

The third Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has come to a close, and there have been 15 entries. The theme for this month was “Possession”, and while everyone seemed to struggle with it, the outcome has been pretty great. I wrote about ownership structure in German vineyards (yeah, I know, way to go to not win a popularity contest), others approached it from the angle of owning wine, or how to handle your possessions, or wine glass possession-obsession, the field is wide open.

The voting has now begun over at Sally’s blog My Custard Pie. Head on over, if you haven’t, and help pick a winner…

Also, I really liked Sally’s introduction which she wrote because her blog is more set in the food blog scene, and I think she does a great job of explaining one of the differences between food and wine writing:

“With food writing, if the prose…

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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages Sept 28 Release

26 Sep

Since I’m away, maybe this will provide some suggestions for this weekend.


Why Tuscany? Pretty Pinots Under $40, Sauvignons, Bargains and Constellation Brands

The monumental September 28 release at VINTAGES unleashes 137 new products, (of which I have tasted 85) and those numbers will only ramp up as we get deeper into the holiday buying season. The main focus is Tuscany and the selection is nicely representative of its various appellations and styles – at decent prices. My picks today are more far-reaching, with pretty pinots, snappy sauvignons and some well-priced off-the-beaten track, cool whites and reds. We end with wines of interest from Ontario’s Constellation wineries; Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin and Le Clos Jordanne.

Why We Buy Tuscany

It’s difficult to find something new to say about Tuscany because a) Italy’s premier region seems to be featured every year, and b) I have not been there for a while to bring you news. It remains a solid source of upscale, usually quite elegant…

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I Say Tomato – You Say Pomodoro

15 Sep

tomato guyWe’re just starting to organize our things for our trip to Roma, Apulia, and Campania leaving next Friday. I know, you’re asking me, “Just starting?” Getting some Euros, travel insurance, ironing, packing, “Honey, where’s my passport?”, and all the other fun stuff. I was thinking about what I was looking forward to and the first thing that came to mind was……… wine? No………Food? Well kind of. I’m looking forward to tomatoes. I love tomatoes! If the doctor told me I had to stay away from tomatoes or I‘d develop poor writing skills, a disorganized mind, a tendency to procrastinate, and a falsely earned sense of vanity, I’m afraid I just couldn’t. Besides I already have those things.

Why tomatoes? Well, in the town where I was a young teen, all the guys worked on farms to earn money required to buy:

  1. The newest Allman Brothers’ Band LP;
  2. Jade East cologne; and
  3. Beer from a bootlegger – usually Labatt’s 50. Some men nodding out there.

I had picked strawberries, cucumbers, cherries, hung and stripped tobacco, planted corn, and disked fields. But, the best summer assignment I had was hoeing and then loading tomatoes for Rocky VanGassen (real name used because you’ll assume it’s fabricated). Rocky grew tomatoes for Campbell Soups and they used them in V8 juice – a beverage that my father loved and I hated. Now, you hoe tomatoes just as the fruit is developing. At that time, there aren’t many really ripe tomatoes but every once in awhile you see one. I worked with an older gentleman who had been farming for years and hoeing his life away in the sun sans sunscreen. Grizzled, lean, and an accent that I never really picked up. Do you see him now? Bob Dylan meets a chain smoking Jimmy Stewart. Actually back then we wore sun tan lotion that encouraged a burn and nascent lesions. Anyway, I digress.

One day as we walked together down a row and hoed our little brains out, he stopped and turned the plant over to reveal a very ripe tomato. He bent down and twisted the tomato off the plant, rubbed it on his pant leg to clean the dirt off, and produced from his overalls pocket a salt shaker. I got the feeling that he’d done this before. When he noticed my puzzled look, he asked, “Didn’t you bring a salt shaker?” I said, “Pardon?” Remember he had an accent. He proceeded to bite into the tomato, a stream of juice dripping on the ground. Then he took the shaker and poured some salt on the open bite mark and then ate the rest of the tomato, alternating bites, dribbling and the application of what we would now say is too freakin’ much salt.

Now, if you’ve ever had a field fresh tomato in the hot sun with some salt (and apparently the sea didn’t have salt back then because ours came from a guy called Morton), you know what perfection is. I got home that night and asked my mother for a salt shaker for the rest of my hoeing days. I then ate enough tomatoes each day to produce a mild case of the hives. But, I can’t think of a more healthy experience or a better way to understand what food really is, where it comes from, and why we need to pay attention to it. A single tomato, properly produced, picked at the right moment and served simply might be my favourite food. No; not maybe. It is my favourite food. Period.

So, what does this lovely nostalgic story have to do with my considering the upcoming trip to Italy? Well, when we traveled to the south of France on two occasions and Greece on another couple, I just couldn’t get enough of the fresh produce and my friends the tomatoes, in particular. So, when I researched Apulia, I saw that it is the bread basket of Italy as far as produce goes. Bingo – tomatoes! Channeling Dr. Zeus, I will have them by themselves. I will have them with orecchiete and oil. I‘ll have them with burrata and herbs. I will get hives!

So, before it’s too late in the season get thee to an Ontario (or Michigan, or Pennsylvania or wherever you are) farmstand, get a basket of tomatoes, a salt shaker, some backyard sun, and my second favourite thing about Italy – a glass of fresh Chianti, Verdicchio, or Aglianico. Or, substitute a profoundly Canadian cocktail – a Caesar!

And, BTW, I got hooked on V8 juice too. Though, since it’s essentially a salt lick, I’m not sure it was the tomato content. Probably Morton again.


Down and Dirty – The Red Daily Slosh, a Splurge and a Revisit

14 Sep

The life of a blogger is pretty cool and dynamic. Right now I’ve spent a half hour trying to get my title to show on this post. I give up! What it says is – “Down and Dirty – The Red Daily Slosh, A Splurge, and ….. You don’t really care, do you? That and starting a Facebook page. Yes, I am going against my longstanding opinionated anti-Facebook rant and just drinking the Kool-Aid with the rest of you. Besides, I can see how much better I look than many of my old high school friends

nostre paisAbout six months ago, I recommended a 2010 red from the south of France. It threw “all sorts of regional flavours into the mix – lavender, spice, and garrigue (in my wine tasting lexicon, that’s French for ‘earthy, lime-stoney, shrubby’ and is typical of wines from here)”. This week the 2011 vintage is out and like the write up says, this is even better. At our house we simply say, “This s@@* is good.” The 2011 Nostre Païs Costières de Nïmes #295410 $19.95 from the land that brought us denim comes full of the same regional smells and flavours (above mentioned) but with a lot more heft. I think that this is less a Vin de Pays d’Oc (which it isn’t) and more a true southern Rhone wine, which it kind of is. Maybe the heavy emphasis on grenache and very little if any syrah makes it so. That line above is confusing. I mean to say that it isn’t Arrogant Frog or Fat Bastard – ish (both wines from the Langudoc, I believe). Less one-dimensional and a truly great value. Case purchase! Plus, one of the most interesting labels ever.

sueannstaffTraveling last spring around Niagara, I made it a point to drop in on Sue-Ann Staff’s place. This is truly a cellar door winery. No fancy wood trims and anything that didn’t try and connect the place with the land. After all, wine making is first and foremost agriculture. So, barns, earthy equipment, etc. all within sight. Just perfect for me having spent my formative years working on farms; driving tractors, picking tomatoes, hanging tobacco, eating strawberries and stealing produce. Maybe better left for another post? Anyway, I believe that it’s best to keep viticulture firmly rooted to the……roots, soils and activities of farms. Sue-Ann is an exceptional winemaker who has been recognized worldwide for her contribution to the growth of Ontario’s wine economy. This week, her 2010 Sue-Ann Staff Merlot #358416 $17.95 is on the shelves. This is rich without being heavy or thick. Does that make sense? Lots of red fruits but still a dark side in the mouth and no hint of the green pepper or stemmy stuff that I find in many single Bordeaux varietal reds from Niagara. A fine dinner wine – beef roast, beef stew, something meaty but not too fatty. And, next time you’re doing the Niagara wine stumble, avoid the tour buses, the crowds and make it a point to drop into this lovely little winery.

falascoI wonder sometimes why the mother ship places a wine that’s almost always available into their “special release”. But, in this case, why argue with that? They know best. They own the place. They don’t have to make sense or be interested in logic. The 2011 Valpantena del Falasco Ripasso Valpolicella #642421 $16.95 is a verrrrrry nice little wine. I know there are Ripasso lovers out there. I don’t always think that Ripassos are a significant improvement from a fresh Valpolicella Classico but the masses have spoken and I am kind of listening. Well, listening this time anyway. This is a pretty smooth number – no harsh, sharp tannins – just some juicy acidity and loads of red fruits like cherries. A perfect – I said – PERFECT pizza wine!

lanI’m stretching the “Daily” part of the Red Daily Slosh because I’m not doing a splurge section for this release. I recommended a Beronia Reserva a few weeks back. Actually, I was effusive in my praise. I gushed about it. I just love Rioja that’s ready and it was. But, I heard from Grant that he didn’t like it – too harsh for him. I appreciate the feedback – everyone has their spot – sweet spot – that they like a wine to be close to. Confession? I don’t like sherry. Love the whole “how sherry is made” thing but don’t like it. So, this is for Grant – this next wine isn’t for you! These Rioja reds can have a dirtiness to them. I love dirty reds. Not dirty as in tasting like dirt or like Brittany Spears – just not clean, fresh, and smooth. Rather – edgy, nervy, smoky, leathery, and well, dirty sums it up best. The 2005 LAN Gran Reserva #928622 $27.95 made primarily from tempranillo is smoking dirty. Think of a reserva from a bodegas that we know, say, Muga, and then add some tarriness and leather. Beautiful! Never, ever, have this without food unless you write a blog; making those rules totally unnecessary.

Revisiting an earlier recommendation – 2008 Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95 – this wine brings bacon on the nose and chocolate on the finish. Now, if you’ve ever had bacon flavoured chocolate – you’ll know that this is special at this price. I said before it was medium bodied but maybe it was the moment – it’s fuller than that and round and scrumptious.

I apologize for the rather monotone narrative this week. I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I’ll be back next week with snappy repartee, clever double entendres and some wine stuff too. Can’t remember who to attribute this to but – Remember: Wine is groceries not a luxury!


The Possession Obsession

11 Sep

wine-stain1-2Two months ago, The Drunken Cyclist, Jeff, challenged all wine bloggers to write a post on a theme. That first one was “Transportation” and you can see my post here. Then the winner of that challenge, The Armchair Sommellier, issued the second challenge. This time the theme was “Trouble” and my effort is here. Now, the latest winner My Custard Pie has selected “Possession” as this month’s theme.

Here goes.

I feel that, on a circular, intersecting continuum of sorts, there are three degrees of wine geeks out there:

winedrinkerThe Wine Drinker – they can be seen at parties, at their dinner table, and wine bars with a glass of their favourite wine, sniffing, swishing, slurping and aahing. Most wine geeks start as Wine Drinkers at the beginning of their journey and, if they’re worth their salt (does anyone know where that saying comes from – without Googling, please), they just must drink wine. No issue like cost, situational appropriateness, or liver enzymes can deter them from their quest to consume wine. Super Bowl? Duh, Spanish Rioja with chili. 110 degrees Fahrenheit? Always well chilled Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine. Winter bon fire? Wineskin filled with Zinfandel.

winebooksThe Wine Truth Seeker – This geek can be identified by:

  1. wine subscriptions piled high in their real or virtual office;
  2. copious tasting notes yet to be entered into their ubiquitous CellarTracker account;
  3. the French AOC, Spanish DO, and Italian DOCG maps on their office wall with pins in appellations so far conquered;
  4. certificate proudly displayed of their membership in the Wine Century Club;
  5. books on their bedside table include Jancis Robinson’s “Wine Grapes”, requiring the presence of a small forklift in the bedroom; and
  6. if they haven’t already, their goal is to someday take a WSET course in the minimum and become an MW at the max.

Confession? I like the geeks stuck in this phase of their development best.

exhorcistThe Wine Possessor – And, you were thinking, “What does this all have to do with the theme?” The rationale for this last evolved species is somewhat unclear. I think it’s a family of origin thing but, then again, I was in social work. The Wine Possessor, in his or her final phase, peruses auction sites, reads the absolutely mind-bogglingly boring section of Wine Spectator and Decanter that deals with fine wine auction prices and….and this is the part I’m trying to get to……….has a label or two in their cellar that has some cache, a goofy story attached, and/or just feels so good to take out once in awhile and hold. But it will never be consumed. Never!

Years ago, when I made the commitment to transition from a Wine Drinker to a Wine Truth Seeker, I started picking up Wine Spectator and Wine and Spirits, put wine books on my Christmas wish list (P.S. I discovered that many wine books have been awarded a citation from the Sleep Disorder Association of America) , and started attending wine tastings – “Is that graphite or bacon on the nose?”. In a lot of the wine magazines out there, there are life style articles about Mr. Dotcom, Mr. Sports Celebrity, Ms. Corporate Star, or other maddeningly shallow people (my value judgment here) who liked wine, decided to learn about wine and bought a 1600 bottle cellar in about three nanoseconds. Why? Because they could! I participated in auctions where more than a few times, one overseas bidder bought up all the fine Bordeaux and Burgundy. How can one person and all their friends, their posse, and family consume that much wine? Ah, but it isn’t the consumption that’s the point. It’s the conspicuous possession. That’s the point of it all. Or so it seems. Why do these poor souls end up possessing wine and not just drinking it?

I’d like to sling arrows at these people but I have a confession to make. I, too, have the possession obsession; albeit with a lower budgetary threshold. I own never-to-be-drank wine too. Now, Lafite? Non. But, I have a few distinctive bottles that no matter how hard I try, I will never drink. Erma Bombeck would say that this wine is like good china. It’s great to own it but no one is ever special enough to deserve a meal served on it. And, this is the weird part, I’m capable of getting more of these untouchables. Oh yeah, on-line auction? Why not bid on the Colgin Lot (sounds like a……..Stephen King title?). And, when it arrives, stash it below for freakin’ ever! And, will I ever take out and open that 1996 Chateau LaTour? Why ever would I do that? If I did I wouldn’t possess it anymore!

Editor’s Note: In an effort to impress, Bill is lying about having in his possession a 1996 LaTour but I do know that he has some untouchables that he values just as highly as he would that bottle.

Bill’s Note: See how it works? I’m even lying about my possessions and, shamefully, about having an editor too.

What’s your wine possession?

Please head to My Custard Pie to read all the submissions before September 23rd where you can vote on your favourite.

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