Sunday, January 26, 2020

Archive for April, 2010


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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 29 - 2010

When I was in college, I saw a student at a frat party sitting all alone in a corner drinking wine directly from the bottle. Now it is not particularly surprising to see someone drinking straight from the bottle at a fraternity party, nor would it be thought unusual, at least at the University of Chicago where I went to school, to see a student drinking alone in a corner. It is kind of unusual to see these two things happening at once. Drinking from the bottle at a party is an attention-getting action, with a cocky little ha-ha quality that seems to fit the setting. Perhaps the guy wanted to make sure that we saw him there all alone, but I didn’t want to believe in that kind of false despondency, so I made up a story for him.

I am sure that I told the story with the kind of derision that makes people laugh when they’ve been drinking, and I recall it getting rather intricate. I don’t remember the entire arc, but here’s the gist of it: another economist from the Chicago Law School had just been awarded the Nobel Prize, so with this on everyone’s lips, I theorized that this guy was a frustrated would-be Nobel laureate who just couldn’t get it together because his work failed to present any seminal ideas or solutions. He began to blame every Nobel laureate at Chicago (which at the time was, I believe, eight), and he plotted their demise straight from a bottle of Mouton-Cadet. At the time, I didn’t know that Mouton-Cadet was available everywhere Budweiser was sold, so I gave him some credit for at least drinking fine wine.

Whether Mouton-Cadet is fine wine or not (it’s fruity and potable, which is better than some) is immaterial. The story illustrates one of the great double-edged swords any product can have: mystique. Mystique doesn’t often translate into sales, but it piques curiosity, has great sex appeal, and it once offered me a chance to make up a belittling, melodramatic story. This air of mystery surrounding wine is also the big hurdle for most people who might otherwise delve deeper into it.

It is apparent to anyone, without much investigation, that the wine world is vast and complicated, and getting into it takes both time and money. Just pick up a bottle of Barolo and try to decipher what all the nomenclature denotes without speaking Italian or knowing anything about the region in advance: it’s not easy, but with a little guidance, it becomes accessible.

In Europe and western Asia, wine is a normal part of everyone’s diet, and is seen as special only in specific circumstances with exceptional wines. Maybe one day we will reach this point in the United States, because wine exists for everyone to consume. Of course, not every wine is for everyone, but the category of wine as a whole should not be so elusive. Beer is seen as the alcoholic drink for everyone, but with the glut of microbrews available, even beer is becoming more fractured and complicated.

Wine is not as inscrutable as it seems, and I suppose that is one of my general themes. Wine cannot--without substantial damage to its fun factor (and therefore should not)--be demystified, and it, really, it does such a good job of spreading joy when people actually drink it.

And speaking of joy--excuse me while I go open a bottle of Rosé...I'm thirsty!

Popularity: 4% [?]

Duval-Leroy Set to Exploit Second-Best

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 25 - 2010

You've gotta love The Onion! Going to college in Chicago in the early '90s meant that The Onion (which started in Madison, WI) was my comic meat every week. Even after it caught on nationwide around the turn of the millennium, it kept its edge, perhaps becoming even snarkier. Here, America's Finest News Source steals the show again with this little gem about an under-appreciated group of potential wine drinkers, bringing Champagne producer Duval-Leroy into the mix (probably unbeknownst to them...):

Champagne Company Develops New Second-Place Beverage

VERTUS, FRANCE—In an effort to provide second-place finishers with a taste of the champagne enjoyed by true winners, vintner Duval-Leroy unveiled a new sparkling wine Monday designed to be bitterly consumed by runners-up. "'Deuxième' balances the sweetness of near-triumph with the acrid aftertaste of once again falling just short," company spokesman Henri Babineaux said. "It is less effervescent but higher in alcohol content, ideal for sipping quietly in a rapidly emptying locker room." Babineaux added that the new beverage will be available in a screw top, allowing consumers to get stinking drunk without having to fiddle with a goddamn cork.

It's too bad this isn't a real news story rather than fake news. Of course, too often the real news, as it gets more politicized, seems to be heading toward fake news anyway, leaving an acrid aftertaste all its own.

Anyway, kudos to The Onion for their backhanded acknowledgement of runners-up everywhere, and for putting something in their glass, too.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Blog Like Shakespeare Day

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 23 - 2010

Canst there be any greater honor than to don the vestiture of that noble poet, a chronicler of sooth, purveyor of wicked humor, and parabolist of tragedy, on this, the day of his birth? Aye, even better 't would it be to write him right.

So here goes.

At the Sign of The Prancing Pony

Come, come good shepherd of the vine, and drink
Of fruit thou grew to know through sun and moon.
Cast off thy livery upon the brink,
Earth's dear bequest shalt bear our merry tune!
Ah, yon's the lass once mine, ne'er was I so bless'd,
Her thriftless beauty maketh me to nip.
Next bot'le I drain, forsaking my dear guest,
Doleful, obsessed, the host is now a dip!
Oh, now must face the furrow of thy teeth
Or quail beneath the gnashing of thy brow
I'm fey!--nay stow thy bayo in its sheath,
Instead, the young, fair wench's not worth the row:
My lot tis this inexorable funk--
It happens ever only I'm when drunk!

A Righteous Good Entertainment

And because I can't get enough of baseball, Shakespeare performed well, and Abbot and Costello, this is marvelous fun that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with wine.

Popularity: 14% [?]

Multiplying Like Jackrabbits

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 23 - 2010

Now this is the way to make more wine (in this case, it appears to be vermouth)! It's in French but you'll understand perfectly well without translation. Santé...

Popularity: 4% [?]

Biodynamics in Wine Drinking

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 22 - 2010

I just had a weird internal exchange with my bizarro-self about biodynamics. For those of you familiar with biodynamics, this is not, in and of itself, all that weird, because biodynamics is already so full of silly sounding mysticism and hocus pocus that an internal debate on it is barely worth mentioning in comparison. Besides, it's Earth Day...maybe I'm in a particularly close union with the biorhythms that surround me! So the weird thing is that I find my opinions shifting. Or, more accurately, my bizarro-self is gaining influence.

Yikes. Now I can never run for President.

What's Your Sign?
I have been a skeptic of the minutiae of biodynamics for many years, but it is certainly possible to taste the evidence of its worth in the great wines that are the offspring of this method of cultivation. If you don't know much or have never heard about biodynamics, it is a farming approach developed by Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher, educator (he's the mind behind Waldorf education), and now that I've just looked him up on the well-intentioned but highly flawed Wikipedia, an esotericist, which would be about right. Biodynamics goes FAR beyond mere organic farming, as it puts a farmer not only into communion with his earth (and the Earth), but also with astrological events. I wish I could say that it was just astronomic influences, especially lunar, but NOOOOOOOOO, it had to include the influences of planets (some of which must always be in retrograde). I can buy into some elements of biodynamics, like the effects of the Moon's gravitational exertions on Earth, especially upon liquids (witness the Spring and Neap Tides), but I'm still having a hard time with it's effects on planting. You should plant your flowers on a Flower day, your potatoes on a Root day, tomatoes on a Fruit day, and trees on a Leaf day.

And how are these days determined, you ask? They are determined by the constellation of the Zodiac through which the Moon is passing at that particular time. Each of the 12 constellations is associated with one of the earth elements (earth, air, fire, water) for some reason (astrology buffs will probably know why, so please help me out). So...when the moon is in the seventh's a Flower day, because Aquarius is associated with air which carries the flower's scent. There are also some days on which you don't want to be doing anything farming wise, or even, apparently, drinking wine, which brings me back to the original direction.

Drinking Biorhythms?
Within biodynamics, there are also days on which wine tastes better than others. Given the opportunity to think about it, you might guess that Fruit and Flower days are the best. Many tasters have noted the day-to-day differences--bottle variation--in some more tensile wines like Pinot Noir and Riesling, and some have used the biodynamic calendar to explain it. I'm not so sure.

Or wasn't.

A few years ago, I started keeping a record of days when I just didn't think wine tasted very good to see if I could discern a pattern. Some of the days were obvious (when I had a cold or some other malady), but others were as random as they could have been. So last week I got hold of the past four years biodynamic calendars, and found that, except for one (1), all of the days (32 total over the past four years) on which I didn't like wine were root or leaf days, or worse (yes, there actually is a "worse"--this is where the other planets come in).

Now What?
I don't give this too much credence, but I'll file it away as non-conclusive evidence. For now, my biodynamic interaction will be limited to drinking some of the great wines. AND, I'll just drink them whenever, and not only on Fruit or Flower days. However, from 8pm tonight until 5pm tomorrow afternoon it's a fruit day, so if you don't want to take your chances, you only have to wait three hours until you can drink some wine! And you'll want to get on that, too, because it's not safe to drink wine again until 8am Sunday morning!!!!

Meanwhile, I'll be drinking a 1993 Bordeaux on Saturday night.

Unless it doesn't taste good, then I'll have to go with a nice bottle of sparkling water.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Selene Wines

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 21 - 2010

In this profession, I meet many suppliers as they travel around the country, and it is particularly nice to see them again (provided I found them scintillating on the first go round). I saw one of my favorite people again a few weeks ago--Mia Klein of Selene Wines. Her wines could be lame and I would still look forward to seeing her, because she is candid in her assessment of wine (her own wines included), generous with her time, and a very thoughtful force in California winemaking (she is the wisely-chosen consulting winemaker at many estates in Napa). As it is, her wines are exceptionally beautiful, individualistic, and user-friendly.

Mia was in town for a winemaker dinner at one of Ohio's coolest (and best) restaurants, The Winds Cafe (thirty years ago, this restaurant was twenty years ahead of its time, so far in the vanguard of the locavore movement that not only was "local" not yet trendy, it was alternative, which--at the dawn of the Reagan Era--was not a compliment; they've been making extraordinary food since the late Seventies, and if you haven't been you should go). I didn't make it to the dinner, tragically, but I did have the wines.

And On to The Wines
Mia presented four current releases, made of varieties one expects from Napa Valley, and here is how I found them, for what it's worth:

Selene 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Hyde Vineyard
Broad and elegant aroma, more perfumed than SB normally is--musqué clone? (I neglected to ask this...)--fluid and fresh with excellent fruit and wonderful body. Not straight-up mouth-searing, but plenty of acid, mitigated by its corpulence, as though it was aged on lees, which I don't doubt that it was. I'd love to have some shellfish right now!

Selene 2007 Merlot Frediani Vineyard
A beefy, serious Merlot. Great flesh and bit of youthful tannin--it has a broad, fairly bright, sweet fruit that is quickly subsumed by the structural elements, only to reemerge as the perception of the acids fade. This wine is in a very cool state presently, and while it could use some time, it is really marvelous. This is a pretty flexible wine food-wise, too...anything with strong proteins--beef, blue cheeses in particular.

Selene 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
This one is five years in, a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon, but not "complete" in the stereotypical way of California...thank goodness! It has all the components you'd expect from fine wine, along with a good lance of a tent post, but it's so full of fruit that it screams California. With five minutes of non-stop swirling, the tannin yields some, fruit is even bolder--stash this one away for another five years, or have it with dinner--it'd be excellent with leg of lamb. CS from Stagecoach Vineyard is 90% of the blend, and CF from Frediani Vineyard is the balance.

Selene 2004 Chesler Napa Valley
Beautiful--aromatic and long, a great sense of allure. Aroma of lilacs, but it's like you're on the other side of a hill from them. This is so graceful--soft and curvy, feminine and suggestive--hard to beat good Cabernet Franc for that, I guess, but this character seems more amplified than I recall from the '03. The Franc and Merlot were co-fermented (they rarely ripen at the same time, so this is usually impossible), and MK thinks this is what made it so wonderously smooth. Still, it's got plenty of tannin. I think she said 60% Franc, and roughly equal parts of Sauvignon and Merlot (I forgot to write what and which, but it doesn't really matter). It'd be nice to have a roast duck with this one.

Popularity: 13% [?]

Video Today

You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 83% [?]


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