it's not a party

Monday, June 25, 2007

... until someone throws up.

Yes, that's right. Saturday was our first-ever Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon release weekend. (The new vintage -- the 03 SLD -- is a wine to cellar. Lots of spice and tannins.) This was a big event for us -- the first time we've thrown a big party for the release of this Cab. (We always celebrate the Reserves, but until now, never the SLD.) I ended up working a 12-hour day, which is why I'm at home in my pajamas right now.

Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, we had a fancy barbecue (beef, lamb and veggie burgers with all the trimmings, including at least five types of cheese, applewood smoked bacon and fancy sauces) for everyone -- consumers, trade, media, etc. And then in the evening, we had a multi-course dinner with library wines (92 and 87 SLD Cabs -- so yummy!) just for trade and media.

And after the dinner, someone barfed in the parking lot.

I guess that's how you know it was a good party, right?

I might have to reconsider religion

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We had a hot date last night. In Chickenland, this can only mean an evening at the Sonoma-Marin Fair.

We saw Cheap Trick (headline entertainers -- free with fair admission!), played a carnival game (I won), shared a deep-fried Twinkie on a stick (it sounds gross, but this creation is pure genius, trust me), touched a Kenyan sand boa at the reptile exhibit (this also sounds gross but it wasn't) and admired the 4-H swine (which were so cute that I now feel guilty about my barbecue obsession).

But the best part was the community competitions. I love the weirdness of the contest categories, like the table-setting competition, for example. (And of course, a first-place ribbon went to the Fourth of July-themed table. Chickenlandians are apparently very patriotic.) There's also the scrapbooking competition, the "best collection" competition (one entry was a glass case full of cat figurines -- love it) and numerous art competitions, from ceramics to watercolor to photography.

And since this year's fair theme is "Grape Expectations," some of the artwork incorporated wine-related images and items.

Like corks. Arranged by 5-year-olds to represent specific scenes, such as "Camping" and "Car Racing."

Or, say, "Jesus and His Followers."

Which makes perfect sense. Because that's exactly what I think of when I open a bottle of wine: "Hallelujah -- I am saved!"

let me count the ways

Friday, June 22, 2007

On Sunday, we had it crusted in panko and fried. On Tuesday, he made it with daal. On Wednesday, I sliced it thin, rolled it up in a wrapper and turned it into lumpia. Last night, we put it on the grill.

This is what happens when the squash plants in your garden are very, very productive.

summer sipper

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's been hot here. The cats are shedding like crazy. And I find myself in the basement/garage, digging through our wine collection in search of something white and refreshing.

Drink of choice: Domaine de Bel Air 2004 Pouilly Fumé. It's a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. Lots of pear and green apple on the nose. In the mouth, good minerality, good acidity and a nice tart apple finish. Yum.

good hiding place

Saturday, June 16, 2007

This morning I found a spider's egg sack tucked into my driver's side mirror. I like spiders. I left it there. And then I ran my errands, which included a car wash.

And the egg sack survived.

Well done, Mama Spider, well done.

learning portuguese

Friday, June 15, 2007

If there is one skill I possess, it is the art of procrastination. Today is Friday. And I'm blogging about the wine tasting/barbecue we held at our house last Sunday.


It was our turn to host our wine-tasting group, so we invited everyone up to Chickenland and told them to bring a bottle of dry Portuguese red. (Because if there's an ethnicity he can claim, it's part-Portuguese.) We ended up with 18 guests and 13 bottles of red wine (only two of which were repeats -- pretty remarkable considering Portuguese red isn't exactly the type of thing you'd find at the corner store -- well, except for maybe Lancers, but they only make a white and a pink).

Most of the wines we tasted were 03s from Douro. The Douro valley lies between Porto and the Spanish border. It's already well-known for its Port, but has recently started receiving more attention for its dry reds, which we're beginning to see more of here in the U.S. market. The majority of dry Portuguese reds are relatively inexpensive, so we were hoping our tasting would help us find a good house wine for everyday drinking.

After tallying up the group's votes (which took awhile, since we were a gigantic group this time around), the wines we tasted were ranked in this order (and I am really hoping I got all of these names right -- this was my first time trying to decipher Portuguese labels):

1. Ramos Pinto 2003 Adriano Red Douro
2. Altano Reserva 2003 Douro
3. Quinta Dos Quatro Ventos 2004 Douro
4. Encostas do Douro Vinha da Palestra 2003 Douro
5. Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2004 Douro
6. (tie) Altano Reserva 2003 Douro and Adriano Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2003 Douro
8. Aveleda Charamba 2004 Douro
9. Quinta de Aveleda 2001 Aveleda Estremadura
10. Lavradores de Feitoria 2004 Douro
11. Niepoort Vertente 2003 Douro
12. Caves Primavera 2002 Beiras
13. Caves Primavera 2002 Beiras

Some interesting things to note: How one bottle of Altano Reserva scored much better than the other bottle of the same wine. How everyone pretty much panned the Caves Primavera (and rightfully so -- the last-place bottle was oxidized); this was the cheapest wine in the tasting -- only $4.99. How a wine that scored 89 points in the Spectator got first place, while a wine that received 90 points from the Wine Advocate came in third place (it was also our wine -- we wanted to see if it was really 90-point-worthy). Which makes me ask: Is there really a difference between 89 and 90 points?

Also worth noting: My first-place wine was the Quinta de Aveleda 2001 Aveleda Estremadura, which wasn't exactly popular with everyone else. But I think this is pretty typical of my palate -- this was the oldest wine in the tasting, and I tend to like older wines. And while others thought the wine was muted, I thought it had nice cherry flavors that weren't overwhelming and would pair well with food. It wasn't an in-your-face wine, and that was what I liked about it.

The more I think about our tasting group, the more I feel like so many factors can affect how you taste wines. For example, this time around, the group was huge, and since our house is extremely small (and slightly box-like in a quaint way), we were all sitting outside in the afternoon sun. The heat could've affected bottle temperature (in fact, the only wine that was really served at the ideal temperature -- which is slightly cooler than room temperature for reds -- was the Ramos Pinto 2003 Adriano Red Douro -- you could tell it had been stored in someone's wine refrigerator before the tasting). The sunlight could've also affected evaluation of color -- the way the sun was shining where I was sitting, at least, I had trouble distinguishing between different hues of red (except for the Caves Primavera, which was distinctly murky and brown).

Also, there's the people around you. At work, we taste in total silence, and no one talks until all rankings are in and the wines/scores are being discussed. I love this. It means my opinion won't be influenced by what the person next to me thinks. But at our tasting group, people tend to announce what they're tasting: "Oh! Pepper!" and "So much fruit!" and "That wine should've never been created!" So of course, others at the table are going to hear that, and it's going to influence how they taste the wine and whether they like it or not. Maybe I'm a stickler and anti-social, but I tend to prefer the serious, silent tasting -- I feel like it's a truer indicator and makes for better discussions afterward -- there's no succumbing to peer pressure.

Anyway, after evaluating the wines, we fired up the barbecues (yes, plural). There was lots of amazing food -- lamb sausage (straight from the ranch -- one of my coworkers raises lambs and I bought sausage from him -- you know how I am about wanting to know where my food comes from), pulled pork (made with apple cider), a tri-color potato salad with no mayo (made instead with mustard, capers, vinegar and fennel) and Pacific red snapper rubbed with chili and lime.

All in all, a nice party. We were exhausted afterwards -- 18 guests is the most we've ever entertained!

today I slept in

Monday, June 11, 2007

Taking the day off today. Last week was nuts -- lots going on in wine country. On Wednesday, I went to what many people consider the most exclusive party in Napa.

And it was insane, as you can see from this photo. (Yes, that's really a gelato bar made entirely out of ice.) Everyone who is anyone in the wine industry was there. (Even Robert Mondavi -- yes, the Robert Mondavi -- was there.) And everyone brought magnums to share. So I got to try some really hard-to-find wines -- Opus One (I'll admit -- I was skeptical about this wine because of all the hype, but this is a damn good wine -- tastes very much like a French Bordeaux), Phelps Insignia (which I actually have a bottle of here at home and which I am so glad I have a bottle of because this is also a damn good wine), Shafer Merlot, Orin Swift's The Prisoner (which is the hot thing right now -- lots of people rave over this), Ridge (love them) and some Gevrey Chambertin.

Tasting all of these wines was definitely the best part about the evening. Mostly, I felt out of place at the party -- everyone knew each other and there was a lot of hugging and cheek-kissing. (There was also a lot of really bad fashion -- so bad that I actually heard someone say: "Obviously, the fashion police are not at this event." Ha!) But I am so new to all of this, plus I'm not exactly Napa A-list (the only reason I got into this party was because I went as my boss's guest). Anyway, it was an experience.

looks like bubble gum

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Smells like bubble gum.

But tastes like a tart raspberry soda, complete with spritz.

This is the Ameztoi Rubentis 2006 Rosé. It's from Basque country -- the appellation is Getariako Txakolina.

Don't ask me how to pronounce that. I've never even heard of it until just now. This wine was a birthday gift from Jessica, and I decided to open it while waiting for dinner to finish cooking. (We're having black-eyed peas and chard over brown rice with a side of panko-crusted squash. Yummy vegetarian goodness. I thought a Rosé would be a nice pairing.)

This is my first brush with Basque wine, and I'm not quite sure yet how I feel about it -- the taste and texture is just so different from anything I've experienced before. Apparently, this wine is made with the grape varieties Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri, which are native to the region ("beltza" means red and "zuri" means white), and from what I've seen online so far, it seems like they are the only grapes in this particular appellation.

Anyway, enough musing. The food is here. Time to eat!

that couple

Monday, June 04, 2007

Last week, we started working together. He's in the cellar, on the bottling line, and he has to wear funny plastic goggles and yellow gloves. We eat lunch together every day, sitting at the picnic tables out back near the crushpad. (Our coworkers make fun of us and call our table the husband-and-wife table.) Sometimes we carpool.

It's fun sharing work gossip and packing our lunches together and talking wine stuff. But the best part is getting to show him the things about working in Napa that I really love.

Namely, BarbersQ, home of the best pulled pork sandwich ever. I took him there last Thursday after work. As usual, the food was fantastic.

I hope this becomes a regular date.
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