Oenophilia – An obsessive disorder or just a way of life?

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 – TBA is King!

Mmmm-Mmmm! There is nothing like Sweet and Sticky when it is done right. Trockenbeerenauslese – literally, a wine made from the harvest of selected dried berries – is regarded as the highest quality category of Austrian wines. This Wine Blogging Wednesday, Tim Elliott of WineCast presented the category of “Old World Riesling” and I rejoiced. I love Riesling. To me, it is the most noble of the noble grape varieties. And even better, I don’t make one. This gives me a chance to track down something yummy from one of my favorite winemongers, Domaine 547. There, Budo-Kun pointed me to a “TBA” made from botrytized Riesling by one of the foremost unsung heroes in Austria.

Pots of Gold at Either End

Weingut Franz Heiss is located on the eastern shores of the Neuseidersee in the Burgenland region of Austria. Long famous in the town of Illmitz for producing “Liquid Gold”, Heiss agrees with those of us in the wine world who hail Riesling as King. Even though it is his favorite grape, he makes very little. Only a small portion of his 500 cases of several different sweet wines became his 2001 Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling.

I put Malia to bed and popped the cork on my bottle. She’s only five, but one whiff of this beauty and I know she’d be pestering me for a tiny sip! I did share with She Who Must Be Obeyed. I’m not THAT stupid. However, I sequestered myself in the dining room so as to not be influenced by my wife’s superhuman palate.

Wow! Liquid Gold is right. If the miller’s daughter had a bottle of this to give the king, Rumplestiltskin would have had no deal! Beautiful inviting color that can be best described as… Liquid Gold. Aromas more of Vaseline than petroleum, apricot, pear, sour apple, lilies, pomegranate, peat smoke, and chanterelles sauteeing in butter. The wine entered my mouth with a rich viscosity. Its unparalleled sweetness on the tip of the tongue played against bright acids along the sides and spicy pepper across the top. Heiss often ages stickies for a year in Acacia wood barrels, not clumsy White Oak, to bring out the floral and savory flavors that distinguish Austrian Riesling. I found flavors of honey, grilled peach, cantaloupe, toasted almonds prosciutto, and Seville orange marmalade. Finally a quick flash of spice and white pepper on the finish before a perfect balance of acid and sweetness love you long time!

I didn’t plan ahead and the Gorgonzola we had in the house was too mild and was lost to the flavors of the wine. On a whim, I brought out my spicy pralines and the Heiss TBA Riesling was actually sweet and savory enough to handle both the brown sugar candy and the liberal pinches of cayenne. As it is now 1:09 am and officially Wine Blogging Wednesday, I’m going to bed. Hmmmm, Riesling and Rice Crispies in the morning?

Zinc Nasal Gel May Kill Your Sense of Smell

According to the calendar, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere should be well into spring. For some of us, that means a couple of feet of snow or inches of rain. Nasty bud-killing frosts aside, sunny California is…well, you know, sunny. Either way, the viciousness of this winter’s colds is still haunting many and the misery of spring’s allergies has taken over our noses and eyes.

I thought I’d take this moment to remind all my fellow bloggers, reviewers, judges, vintners, winos, and everyone else – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT ANY COLD REMEDY CONTAINING ZINC INTO YOUR NOSE!!! There is a medically documented possibility that applying topical zinc through one’s nasal membranes can cause temporary or permanent loss of one’s sense of smell – Anosmia.

Yes, gentle reader. I said using the only ingredient in over-the-counter remedies that has been proven to lessen the symptoms and duration of the common cold may incapacitate your schnozz. Zinc may halt your honker. Zinc may prejudice your proboscis. Zinc may bust your beak. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, that anatomical implement which allows us to enjoy that which has brought us together this day in cyberspace is in grave peril! My friends, the organ with which we unravel the mysteries of the universe as presented by the “Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands” is endangered by an ordinary cold remedy. Simply put: you may no longer be able to smell your wine.

This has been batted around the medical journals and courts for years. Many of you may already avoid topical zinc for this reason. There is only a chance that use may cause this catastrophic result. But WHY RISK IT?

These are just five citations of the many that draw attention to this:

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/520031

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/

http://repositories.cdlib.org/uclabiolchem/nutritionnoteworthy/vol7/iss1/art1/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15283486

http://tinyurl.com/2t7fv7

If you can’t imagine your life without sticking your nose in a glass of wine, find another way to unstuff your nose!

WBW #44: Romance in a Glass; My 1st Feminine Cab Franc

Let me officially say that I LOVE DOMAINE 547! JB’s selections have been spot on. I seem ready to love each of her wines even more than the last. However, this one rides straight to the top as the newest of my favorite wines. Chateau du Hureau 2005 Saumur-Champigny – Wine Blogging Wednesday #44: French Cabernet Franc!

WBW #44

I first tasted this wine at around 7:30 this morning and continued at around 8:30 because I was so smitten. I just had to revisit this lovely. Did I mention I love Domaine 547 ?

Chateau du Hureau is a domaine in the Loire AOC of Saumur-Champigny. Aside from being the birthplace of the Plantagenet Dynasty of England, the Loire is home to a beautiful expression of Cabernet Franc. The Domaine that produced my fantasy date for the morning is indeed a serious Cinderella Loire Valley Chateau. BTW – un hureau is a solitary old wild boar, very NOT like this wine!)

Her beauty poured in a seductive soft purple hue that reminded me of the color that I would have wanted my raspberry coulis to come out, if I had ever thought to make a raspberry coulis. The first aromas to surface were garden iris and raspberry. They were soon overtaken by green & red bell peppers, black cherry, white peppercorns, and ginger – leaving behind creamy vanilla and the sharpness of Stilton. Her scent was alluring enough to make me want, no need, a taste.

The primary impression that came to mind with the first sip was that this was one well-balanced Cab Franc! No aggressive attack, just a cool medium viscosity not unlike milk. Yet the mouthfeel had enough acid taking over as the the wine left my mouth to get the glands juicing and pining for more. The flavors fused together beautifully trying to elude direct identification, wanting to present a total, yet iridescent impression. She is calculating in the seduction of her unwary prey.

First the fruits : Plum, raspberry, a hint of roadside blackberry and wild strawberry. Then she roughs it up a bit to turn my admiration to longing: radicchio with a very mild soft bleu and bits of crispy bacon. Then she rewards me with a little creaminess: mixed berry yogurt on the way down my eager gullet. Her finish played with a little leather and showed very mild dark and toast caramelized onions, citrus peel and heaps of soft tannins that dried out my mouth only for the acid to do its job and slack my thirst.

And you wonder why I am just posting this now after tasting the Saumur-Champigny almost four hours ago? It has taken me this long to recover. There is still two-thirds of a bottle left. Maybe after my daughter goes to bed tonight, I’ll uncork this beauty again and, in the French tradition, share her with my lovely wife.Romance in the Loire

Selling Wine in L.A., Volume I

Just a quick post before I hit the road.  After a month of random illnesses that were sucking the life out of half of wine country, I feel great and have hit the road to introduce Iridesse Wines to L.A.  I flew the blessedly fast and easy flight from Sonoma Co. airport to LAX (Yea, Horizon!) and got my car and drove to my first pitch over in Orange.  I had forgotten how insane it is to get around.  My Mapquest and Hertz directions eventually got me there – several different freeways later and a side trip to genuflect at the altar of Mr. Disney. 

I had also forgotten how inane wine sales cattle calls are.  I arrived at the Wine Exchange in Orange and put my name at the bottom of a very long list of wine sales guys who got there before me.  I am glad I had time to wait because this store was great!  Their selection of Bordeaux and Burgundies alone kept me busy for most of the time I was there…and I’m not even really a French wine geek.  I finally got to my turn and I had the pleasure of pouring for Kyle – a really great guy and he liked what we were doing.  I hope to hear from him soon so that the good people who live behind the Orange Curtain can get some Iridesse!

I capped off the day with dinner at El Cholo.  This restaurant is one of the classic establishments in the hamlet legally known as “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula.”  We call it L.A.  I have memories of El Cholo going back as long as I remember.  Since it is March and the gorgeous Green Corn Tamales are served only from May to September, I had another classic dish Sonora-Style Enchilada (layered corn tortillas, savory chicken simmered in a tomato, onion, cilantro broth, & cheese, topped with olives and a fried egg) served at El Cholo since 1923.  While I would have loved this dish with a nice rhone white,  I decided that my roots needed to show more and I had the Gran Tradicional Margarita – Cuervo Tradicional, Herradura Silver, Cointreau and a float of Cuervo Reserva de la Familia!  Yum.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #42

This blogger has finally tried to get his act together and join with the countless other wine tasting bloggers and post to the world-famous Wine Blogging Wednesday!

What is this, you ask? Every month a “host” selects a topic/category and on the prescribed day, we all post our review of a wine that fits. This month, Andrew Barrow from Spitoon decided we should review an Italian red in “Just 7 Words” and post. Sounds great! I love Vino Rosso and enjoy a word-play challenge. However…

Evil Head Cold keeps my bottle corked!

I am smitten with the plague that seems to have knocked out most of Sonoma County through the past few weeks. Even my AP-celebrated daughter is sniffing and hacking. I would have tasted

Il Dominio 1997 Bagnoli “Classico” Friularo “Vendemmia Tardiva”

Big ‘ol props to anyone who has tried a wine from Bagnoli di Sopra in the Veneto. The DOC has one village, one winery, and is the only region to have the right to the varietal, Friularo.

Alas. No tasting this week. But at least you have my seven words…hopefully not my last.

Children and Wine hits the AP

A while back, Tom Wark of FERMENTATION and the SWRA asked for our input in how we involve kids in the world of wine, which led to a contest for the cutest picture of a kid in a winery. All of this caught the attention of AP reporter Victoria Brett who followed the trail of blog comments back to my wife and me.

Several conversations later and a visit to our dinner table by an AP photographer, Victoria wrote her article. I discovered today that it began to be disseminated throughout the media last week. I know. I should keep a closer watch on my Google Alerts. The article has already appeared in a few newspapers and blogs. The easiest to read at this time is on the Dallas Morning News Website from this morning. Victoria did a nice job of presenting the arguments and was able to synthesize our hours of conversation into a few sentences.

I look forward to the continuing conversation. It has been very lively over at Catavino as Gabriella led us in a discussion over the place of wine and winemaking in education. Be sure that you also check out the post and comments from RichardA, A Passionate Foodie. Alcohol is certainly a volatile topic (Sorry. Bad enology joke.) which can make for a minefield when we are in discourse from the point of winemakers, wine retailers, wine drinkers, and now as parents or those concerned for the welfare of children.

Again, read the AP article here as well as see four great family photos by AP photographer, Eric Risberg and add your two glasses worth to the ongoing dialogue in the blogosphere. We all raise a glass to you!

Family Toast


Wine in Context, Dinner in Context

I adore wine. I taste wine and share my opinions on particular wines with anyone who reads this blog. Nonetheless, to me the most important quality in a wine is how it tastes with and affects accompanying food. We don’t always eat elaborately well-planned meals that we have perfectly paired with a wine that was suggested by a Master Sommelier. Sometimes we just eat dinner. Inspired by the recent writings of Jill at Domaine 547, here’s a look at last night’s “It’s 6:30. What should have for dinner?”

I opened up the refrigerator door and found not much. I opened up the pantry and found not much. I opened the door to consider a trip to the grocery store and found much: a constant downpour that made me close the door and pray to the muse of culinary inspiration. Looks like a pasta night.

We are blessed here in this little town of Healdsburg in that I have many shopping alternatives in the SLO food movement – Sustainable, Local, and Organic. I try to stay away from chains and supermarkets and do as much of my shopping in locally-owned small businesses as possible. This keeps my little green conscience slightly assuaged from all the other ways in which my size 13 carbon footprint stomps on dear old Gaia. However, sometimes I do get pulled in by the glamour of Whole Foods and the bargain quirkiness of Trader Joe’s. So I reached for Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s, for those not up on the lingo) Italian Tomato Starter Sauce – basically Pasta alla Checca in a box. Pretty yummy on its own, but I felt a need to justify my existence in the kitchen so I added a pinch of Persian Allspice from Boulettes Larder in the S.F. Ferry Building Foodie Orgy Fest. This powdered blend of rosepetals, cinnamon, cardamon, and cumin have made me look oh, so much of a better cook than I am on many an occasion. The result was poured over some pasta (imported from Italy, so it could have have a carbon footprint of as much as 2000 lbs of CO2) and served up with some rock-hard Reggiano from the back of the cheese drawer. In the end, pretty yummy.

As a winemaker who often reviews wines, I have made a point of not reviewing any wines I have had a hand in making. However, since I am just telling you about my dinner, I will make an exception. We popped open a bottle of my wife’s Chateau Felice 2002 Zinfandel Reserve from her family’s Chalk Hill estate; we both worked at CF from its inception until October of 2006. This wine is a zin made in the elegant “claret” style – not big, jammy, sweet, or high in alcohol. It is, though, quite a mouthful that is packed with a broad range of fruit and spice and finishes with great acid.

Then we had it with the aforementioned Persian-spiced Tomato Checca. Disaster! The wine tasted hot, sharp, and way too acidic. Bummer. My wife sadly attributed it to the wine seeming to have passed its prime early. I defended her -“Good Husband! Good Boy!” – and immediately decided it was not the wine, but the pairing. Ta Da! This is a job for SUPER GEEK! I pulled one of my old tricks from my super utility belt and dashed a little balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt on the tomato sauce. Lo and behold…the zinfandel was tasting pretty darn good and we dined happily ever after. Well, at least until I had to endure the screams as I brushed my five year-old’s long curly hair before bed.

So what happened? My buddy’s gypsy-godmother’s trick of using the sweetness of balsamic with a little extra salt at the table adjusted how I perceived the acids in both wine and sauce and made them compatible. I’ve tried this trick with ratatouille, asparagus, and several other stereotypical pairing faux-pas and it has worked every time. The best result of this dining adventure? I did, in fact get to enjoy a yummy wine that otherwise would have gotten poured into the carboy we keep to make our own aromatic red wine vinegar.