The Blogger is Out

bordeaux_map2I’ve traveled through most of France in the past decade but never to the fabled terrior of Bordeaux.  So naturally when the opportunity to meet our French barrelmaker at a trade show next week presented itself, my one and only thought was, “Isn’t this why I’m in the wine biz?”

So for those of you who’ve already noticed a slight drop off in blog production over the past two weeks, I’m sorry to say you’ll be blogless this week as well.

The good news is that I’ll fill my brain with oodles of material with which to give my “unique” take come the week of the 8th and of course some wine tasting/culinary experiences I expect to have from my time in Bordeaux and Paris.

Back in a week.

Au Revoir…

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Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm  Comments (2)  

The Race for 57 -Day Fourteen

After a couple of days of light work outs and conditioning exercises, I was finally cleared by the team doctor to take the field again.  Thanks for all of your cards, letters, flowers and general well wishes.  With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I’m thankful for you, dear blog reader.

At the end of May, 1941, Joe D. was finishing up a series against the Senators, facing down pitcher Steve Sundra and went 1-3 with a single and a run scored.

My first at bat, back after being out for a few games, was pretty much the same.

I opened a 2007 Spanish Garnacha, called Condessa de Sarabella.  It continued a string of just under 14% alcohol wines, which I can’t stress enough is (to me) the key to enjoying these every night, low fanfare choices.

I’m not suggesting you don’t want something more powerful to go along with that macadamia nut encrusted rack of lamb, but for easy, lets sip it while we read the kids their bedtime story fare, they can’t be beat.

This wine had a very nice color and a pleasant smell of wood smoke.  The fruit was soft and balanced but upon first sip, it felt like it would be bolder but wasn’t.

Still, at $3.99 this is a solid rotation wine.

SINGLE

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Drinking our Troubles Away

thingThe whole family is sick in one form or another.

And when I say sick I mean we’re passing around a bug reminiscent of the alien in John Carpenter’s, “The Thing.”  When my younger son coughed the other day it sounded so other-worldly that I almost drew some of his blood and held it to an open flame.

Sadly though, life in the 21st century has a “show must go on” mentality so my wife and I have been working away and the kids are still at school with the rest of their coughing friends.

The one thing that I have given up during my last week of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, and feverishness is wine drinking.  Actually that’s not true, I did go out to dinner a few nights ago (I’ve been feeling worse in the mornings, not when dark) and failed to enjoy two really nice Italian wines.  For me, my taste buds are shot right now.

But didn’t Poor Richard come up with some alcohol related remedy (the Hot Toddy?) for when we are under the weather?

I did a little research online and can save you the trouble of typing in, “drinking alcohol when sick” as it simply pulls up page after page of college kids trying to help each other out of “getting” sick when drinking alcohol.  Ah, the good old days…

I did find a bit of data conducted by Carnegie Mellon University (not by the binge drinking students, mind you) that showed a resistance to colds with moderate alcohol consumption.

More amazingly, researchers in Spain found that “…drinking eight to 14 glasses of wine per week, particularly red wine, was linked to as much as a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing a cold. The scientists suspected this had something to do with the antioxidant properties of wine.”

If that’s the case I should be more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Alas, I’ve not drank much wine this week, have done no exercise and as such still feel like Paul Bunyan’s boot is stepping on my head.

So this humble blogger will try his best to get better before continuing the “Race for 57.”  For now, consider me on the DL…

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 9:19 am  Comments (2)  

What to Blog About Today?

One of the many benefits of reading, especially for a blogger, is the treasure trove of potential subject matter you come across.

Most of my reading comes in the form of magazines, of which I’m somewhat addicted (I’m talking to you Vanity Fair and New York) but most of my “material” has come from the daily enjoyment of the New York Times, still the best, informative, in the tank for Obama paper of record there is.

And I’ve found things to blog about in all its sections.

So today’s lucky winning article was a cinch, about an irascible twelve-year old food critic (on the Upper West Side, natch) who became a local chef’s favorite BFF, while giving the cuisine a 24 out of 25, and 23 of 25 on decor.  The wait staff did not fare as well though, 21 of 25 (“I asked you to refill my fruit punch five minutes ago!”).

But after reading the article, there was no nugget of wisdom I could impart, no parallel to be drawn to my own kids – though I have little doubt that if we lived in NYC and let my seven year old son, Bennett, out of the house on his own, he’d be mayor in a year’s time.  The inspiration actually came a page before in a piece regarding Breakfast in the Classroom.

In a (Honey Nut Cheerios) nutshell – that seemed like a better idea in theory than execution – some NYC public schools are now providing a free, healthy, breakfast for their students just before class begins.

Not only is this a great story, giving kids a chance to start their day right, be excited to get to school on time and then tackle the day to succeed, but it also gave me something to blog about, a dream really, though an admittedly far fetched and unlikely one.  And it’s this.  Could restaurants sell more wine if they gave out a little sample of something, say the way they might bring out, “something the chef made special for the table, etc?”

Now we all know that beverages are the big money makers at restaurants, and most I gather would not be keen on cutting into those profits with free wine, but I do believe that more people would purchase it if they were given some without the pressures of ordering it themselves.  I mean, isn’t that sort of what by the glass programs are all about?  Buy a glass and someone might be enticed to buy a bottle (or at least another glass).

This reminded me of a place for which this policy lived back in the day I was going there (but alas have not in years because it’s not that close to my house).  The place is 12 Washington in Marina Del Rey (no website at press time).  It holds a significant place in my life because I took my wife there on our first date and we had our first kiss sometime soon after.

But what I’ll also remember about it, and the two great guys who ran/run it (though their names escape me) is that they never wanted a table without wine on it.  At the end of your meal, if you had finished your bottle, they always made sure to fill your glass with something to wash down your dessert or finish your conversation with.

Like a free school breakfast at the start of the day, no one should be without wine at the end of it (well, no adults anyway)…

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Race for 57 – Day Thirteen

The world is full of crazy coincidences.

I don’t consider thirteen an unlucky number but since many people do, I figured a little research into Joe Dimaggio’s actual streak to see what happened in Game 13 was in order.

(Editors Note:  I’m bookmarking Baseball Almanac’s streak page as it’ll be fun (for me at least) to see what Joe did in each game while I follow along with wine).

Well it just so happens that Game 13 of his streak occurred on May 28, 1941.  Twenty-four years later, on that exact day, I was born in Brooklyn, NY.  Who knew?

The Yankees played the Washington Senators with Joe getting one hit, a triple, off pitcher Sid Hudson (who died just a month ago on October 10th at the grand old age of 93).

On the thirteenth wine of my streak, I opened something I’ve tried before in previous vintages, a Cotes du Rhone by negociant, Caves des Papes.  I’ve always liked this wine, in the oddly shaped bottle and its been a reliable choice for the last few years.

This vintage, 2006, comes on with some serious red fruit on the nose and a nicely balanced structure.  It really kicks into high gear fruit wise on the mid-palate and then drops off a cliff into nothingness.

Later in the evening I had some more and it complimented the remnants of a Marionberry pie a friend brought over a few days ago.  For those of a certain age (namely those of us who spent our formative years in the late seventies/early eighties) feel free to make all the crack jokes you want about a Marionberry pie. 🙂

This year’s wine is not as good as I remember it but it’s a solid effort at $4.99, and while Joe D. hit a triple in his thirteenth game, I was only able to muster a GROUND RULE DOUBLE.

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s the Economy, Stupid

A few weeks ago I meant to blog about an article I read in the NY Times (can’t find it now) that followed a family who, even in this big economic downturn, were keeping the sailboat they bought with a second mortgage.

Their reasoning?  It brought their family together and the pleasure that they derived from the boat, far outweighed the thought of selling it though they could use the money.  I had forgotten about the article until I picked up yesterday’s Times and read a somewhat companion piece (at least I see them as similar) regarding the health, or lack thereof, of the book business heading into the holiday season.

We met two people at opposite ends of the literary buying spectrum, one person who has become a browser instead of a buyer with the stock market tanking and another who had just bought her second book in two days.

Jacqueline Belliveau, the book purchaser, (I’m printing her name because she’s really the “person” who this post is all about – and deserves a hip, hip, hooray)  and her attitude says a lot about where many of us consumers find ourselves these days when it comes to discretionary spending.

For what Jacqueline has said is that while she may scrimp in other areas of her life, the joy she gets out of buying books is more important than the other things she has chosen to give up while money gets tight.

I had conversations with people, as far back as last December, when there were early signs that the economy was heading south, about how I saw this affecting wine sales.  And to be honest, while I wasn’t nervous, I was prepared for something a few notches above bad.

Where I personally pinpointed this slow down happening was in wine club sales.  Over the past two years the club has been a driving force for us, as more people become familiar with our wines and want to ensure they get access to them (in the grand scheme of things our production is very small).  And yet it also seemed the easiest thing for anyone wanting to cut expenses to do without.

But as January rolled around and our first club e-mail went out, I waited for cancellation e-mails to come back to me. But none did.  And as the year progressed we actually saw an increase in club membership as the economy got worse and worse.

Loyal customers?  Sure, that’s part of it .  We really do have the best customers in the biz.  But I think it’s much more than that.  For them, wine is their recession buster, their line in the sand, their “I’m mad as hell but not going to take it any more” declaration.

Yes, the economy is bad but perhaps the badder it gets, the more we want to cling to the things that make us happy, whatever our place on the economic totem pole.  For some that means keeping the sailboat, buying the books, drinking the wine, or even making sure the Friday night family dinner/movie on the couch is held onto at something else’s expense.

So while I’m skeptical that what does not kill us makes us stronger,  I do know that what makes us happy, certainly does…

Published in: on November 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Race for 57 – Day Twelve

With a week gone by since the historic election of Barack Obama, and big gains made by the Dems in both houses, I guess it’s somewhat appropriate that I opened a Cabernet from a winery called, “Congress Springs.”

As with many TJ’s finds, I was not able to find much info on this wine, save for the fact its been around for a long time (and by long I mean since the 1880’s), which may explain why they have not discovered the internet yet.  Okay, that’s a bit snarky…

What drew me to the wine other than the name on the front was the tasting notes on the back.  This is a very important part of any wine bottle as it’s a marketers one chance to grab the purchaser before they decide to put it in their cart or back on the shelf.

As someone who writes some of this kind of bottle text (though we don’t use it anymore), I always thought something along the lines of, “A delicious wine that will go with whatever food you are serving.  And by whatever, we mean, chicken, beef, fish, vegetables” would be an ideal way to appeal to everyone.

But what caught my eye on this bottle was this bit of description:

“Wasted coffee.”

I have not heard this term before. Have you?

Is wasted coffee the “waste” left in the filter that soggily sits there long after you’ve drank your brew?  Or is it some form of drunken coffee beans?  Inquiring minds want to know…

Truth be told I did not get any coffee, wasted or otherwise on the nose but there were pleasant hints of caramel and certainly the oak that is highlighted on the bottle.  In fact, the wine was very oaky throughout, a bit too much so for me on the mid palate and finish.

At $4.99 it’s on the high end of the wines I’ve been buying at the Joe so I can’t give this one much.  In fairness it did get better later in the evening (maybe I need to follow the wine stylings of the very cool 2 Days Per Bottle who rightfully realize sometimes wines need a little extra time to access before you write them off).

Still, my first thought after trying this wine a few times last night was to call this one a low inside fastball that clips my leg.  It didn’t hurt much and got me to first base.

HIT BY PITCH

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Race for 57 – Day Eleven

It took me eleven wines to get to some juice from Italy.  Sicily to be more specific…

I’ve only tried a few of these over the years, most recently on the advice of the sommelier at Osteria Mozza (boy, I’m obsessing on them lately).  I liked that wine and I liked the one I tried last night:

A Nero d’Avola (Sicily’s “most popular red grape” as it’s touted on the world wide interweb) from Archeo.

What caught my eye though was the prominent front of bottle sticker that said, “Ruggero di Tasso – Winemaker.”  I pictured some “rugged” Italian looker, fit and tan, perched above his vineyard overlooking the Adriatic Sea.  But a Google search turned up nothing on the man who would be Ruggero di Tasso.

So lets just call him the Willy Wonka of Sicily who stays in his caves all day, punching down his wines before settling them down to rest in barrel.  Then one day, he’ll affix special golden tickets underneath the Romanesque label on his bottle, and the lucky few who receive them will be whisked away to Italy to meet the man the townspeople have seen only in shadow.

But I digress…

The wine has a very pleasant nose of chocolate covered raspberries.  I’ll take that a step further.  Do you remember those jellied candies that your grandparents kept out when “company” came over?  Well if you grew up anywhere near Brooklyn you would.  That’s what it smelled like.

There is a nice mouthfeel to the wine, a little tart (which I happen to enjoy) and good balance.

The finish is not dramatic but this is a solid effort that will go with many foods (I had Ravioli with a garlic tomato sauce and it was just fine).

$4.99

DOUBLE

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm  Comments (2)  

Tonight’s Secret Ingredient – Chianti!

I have nothing against celebrity wines.

I mean, rich people looking to spread their money around could do worse than buy up some land in Napa or take a few tax write-off trips to Italy in order to get into the wine biz.

And while there are numerous examples of wines that bear a famous name, sadly the only one I’ve ever had was created by the adult film star, Savanna Samson (it was really good, BTW).

(Note: I could not find any links directly to a wine site but did find one devoted to her film career – 18+ only please)

But I read with some skepticism today about a wine collection named after the “Iron Chef” TV series.  Lorraine Bracco or Ernie Els making wine makes a little sense.  But will we now have to endure TV show wine brands?

Is anyone out there clamoring for something called, “Desperate Housewines”, or “The New Adventures of Old Vine Zindandel?”  I’m going to venture out on the plank and say no.

ironchefwines I guess what’s even more disconcerting (because in fairness I’ve not tasted these wines) are the simple – almost comical – labels you see to the left.  It’s as though the makers (nay: marketers) behind this new venture are so positive that:

a. the wine is so good

b. the Iron Chef brand is so powerful

That barely any thought needs to go into the look of the bottle.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those for whom a label will get me to buy a wine (okay, full disclosure it has happened once.  Check these bottles out…

The ones above though are so generic, so uninspiring, that I cannot imagine the wines being anything but the same.  Perhaps I’m wrong.

I guess at the end of the day, I’m not a gimmick guy.  The wine industry is filled with great people who work really hard to eke out a living while doing something we love.

So the thought that some of my calls won’t/don’t get returned because the person I’m calling is already being pitched on a new wine label based on each host of “The View” well, just makes me want to turn off my computer, stop working and go watch TV…

Published in: on November 5, 2008 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Making the Mozza out of Mozza

While the hip factor has perhaps been taken out of the “Mozza’s” these days, both places still remain stellar examples of restaurants doing it right.

Osteria not only serves up some seriously decadent food but their service is first rate, as is the wine list.

For my money though, in this economy or any other, it’s Pizzeria Mozza that I pine for.  So this past Thursday, after taking the kids to E!’s annual Halloween party, we snuck in for our famous 5:30 reservation.  The boys  love pizza as much as I do, though they seem to be just as happy with Geno’s than something more exotic.

Who am I kidding? Between Geno’s and no pizza, I choose Geno’s…

Still, I was excited to have them experience Mozza, building it up much to their disinterest as we struggled through traffic from Wilshire/La Brea to Melrose and Highland.

Note:  I highly discourage you from taking Wilshire, La Brea, Melrose, Highland or any streets in between in trying to make this journey.  The 2.43 mile trip took 30 minutes.

To contradict Randy Newman, I (don’t) Love LA (during rush hour).

We arrived at PM around 5:50pm with out table still waiting for us – thank you – and I was happily surprised to see that they even had kids stuff to color before we ordered.  This said, Bennett was more impressed with the paper place mats, which showed various hand gestures that one can use to “speak” Italian.  He proceeded to spend the rest of the evening telling the wait and bus staff to “buzz off.”

Sorry, Mozza wait and bus staff…

One of my favorite things about the Mozza restaurants are their quartinos.  These small carafes of about four small glasses (see: quartinos) of wine are a great, cost effective way to enjoy a few different wines.  This night I ordered the Dolcetto a’ Alba from Guiseppe Marcarello and though a bit dry, there was plenty of fruit.  And at $13.00, could you really complain?

We started with the tri-colore salad, which is comprised of several kinds of leafy things I could not name with a botany textbook in hand but the ruffage is dusted with a nice layer of cheese, which the boys chose to simply lick off without eating it.  I recommend this salad with their lemon dressing, instead of the anchovy – you just have to ask.

The pizzas came next, a margherita, that’s quite simply the best one you’ll ever eat – sorry John’s on Bleeker in NYC, Lacocos in San Rafael, CA and too many places in Italy to name – because I could not name them – the crust is thin, as is the cheese but the flavors from the oven, the tomato sauce, the everything, is something everyone must experience.

Linda ordered the clam pizza, with a typhoon of garlic and Italian spices throughout.  Wow.

But no meal at PM is complete without the best dessert I’ve ever had – the Butterscotch Budino.  Simply put, a butterscotch pudding that is so out of this world I fully expect some alien civilization to rain down on earth to reclaim it from us one day.

If you live in LA, or are coming here, this is a must dining choice.

Me, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I just happen to be going back there…tonight!

Please don’t hate on me…

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment