Friday, August 31, 2007
Suspicious cloud formations this morning: Pretty, but not what you want to see when you are bringing grapes in and the last thing you need is rain. We started harvest Aug. 16. He starts his tomorrow, which means I probably won't see him very much for the next few weeks.
Also, on another note, I just realized I have 120 hours of vacation time. Someone please remind me why I am sitting in this chair right now instead of on a beach somewhere. (Damn all those people who took time off! I spent this past week pitching stories, only to continually discover that one journalist after another is "out of the office and not checking voicemail or e-mail" until Tuesday. Argh!)
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Today was one of those days: You wake up. You never quite get dressed "presentably." You spend the day wearing a sports bra and doing little projects around the house.
Like figuring out what to do with all the tomatoes, zucchinis and peppers from your garden. You start off by making chilaquiles for breakfast, which uses up a few of those tomatoes and peppers (pimientos de padron -- yum) and turns that stale bag of tortilla chips into something fabulous. (And you're proud of yourself because your chilaquiles taste better than the ones you ordered two weeks ago at brunch and spent $13 on, and which later totally upset your stomach for about 48 hours afterwards. So far, your stomach is not upset.)
And then you make the custard for green tea ice cream, which doesn't use any tomatoes, zucchinis or peppers, but which does use up the milk in your refrigerator before it goes bad.
And then you devote yourself to shredding numerous zucchinis in the Cuisinart, measuring the pieces into plastic bags and then freezing it all. You now have enough frozen zucchini to bake many, many loaves of zucchini bread in the next six months.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Went to a South African wine tasting Thursday night.
I love South African wines. I know they can be inconsistent and dirty and not always very friendly. But when you find a really good one, you never forget it. So there was no way I was going to miss this tasting. And I wanted to make sure I made it all the way around the room, trying everything I possibly could.
Which meant I had to spit. I know this sounds wasteful. But let me tell you, there is no way you can get through some 60 wines, adequately evaluate all of them and then make the 40-minute drive home afterwards unless you spit. (This is the industry secret. It's how we taste so many wines without getting drunk.)
So there I was, in the beautiful, historic Officer's Club at Fort Mason, surrounded by the after-work crew (lots of young and youngish people, all dressed to the nines, all likely from the Marina or hoping to one day live there). And I spat and spat and spat. Every single wine. You wouldn't believe the disgusted looks I got from those Marina girls with their Louis Vuitton purses and perfectly groomed eyebrows. I think I was the only person spitting at the entire tasting. (All the folks who were pouring the wines understood, but everyone else thought I was on crack.)
Anyway, I did achieve my goal and made it around the entire room. I didn't try all 60 wines, but I did taste all of the Sauvignon Blancs, Chenin Blancs, Pinotages and rosé wines that were being poured.
My absolute favorite wine of the evening was the Golden Kaan 2006 Rosé, which is made from Pinotage and costs just $9.29. It was super-dry and more on the lean side, had good acidity and nice crisp berry flavors -- I loved it and will probably be calling the winery (they have an office in Sonoma) to order some.
I also liked the Kanu 2005 Chenin Blanc and the Glen Carlou 2003 Grand Classique, a blend of Cab, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot that was fairly elegant and not extremely complex, but wasn't a huge oak/tannin bomb, which so many wines are.
As for Pinotage, I found that a lot of people (at least at this tasting) seem to be trying to make this wine more appealing to consumers, so they are blending it with Merlot and other varieties to soften it up and round it out a bit. The resulting wines are voluptuous and easy-to-drink, but they all taste the same.
Of the Pinotages I tasted Thursday night, my two favorites were the Warwick 2005 Pinotage Old Bush Vines and the Bellevue Tumara 2005 Pinotage. The Warwick to me tasted most like Pinotage -- there was lots of chocolate and roasted coffee, and not a whole lot of fruit. The Bellevue Tumara was friendlier -- definitely more black fruit, but still had a hint of earthiness.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It was 2005. The midst of the Sideways craze. And we were in Shell Beach for the World of Pinot Noir. Back then, I was still writing. And we were going on year one together.
We went to the Saturday tasting. We were probably -- not surprisingly -- two of the youngest people there. We laughed at the strange glass holders some people had around their necks. And the spitting techniques -- lots of dribblers. And the terrible, terrible fashion.
Somehow, we wove our way through the chaos and found ourselves at the Kosta Browne booth. This was before they were all over the pages of Spectator.
They were pouring out of decanters. Three of their vineyard-designated wines and three from the appellation series. I was blown away, especially by the Kanzler Vineyard wine.
And they were the nicest, nicest people at the tasting.
And now he works for them.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Went to Thomas Keller's ad hoc for dinner tonight. This is the restaurant that was only supposed to be open for a few months -- sort of an interim place while Keller was working on a "burgers and half bottles" concept. But everyone loved ad hoc so much that now the restaurant is permanent. (The burgers and half bottles thing is still going to happen, but in another location in Yountville.)
Our marketing team went tonight after work to celebrate (surviving) the last few weeks, which have been absolutely nuts. The menu at ad hoc changes daily, and you don't get to choose what you're going to eat. Everyone comes in, pays $45 per person (or $75 if you're part of a group of 10 or more) and eats four courses family style. Fried chicken night is supposed to be mind-blowing, but unfortunately, no chicken on the menu this time around -- tonight was all about the Texas-style barbecue. So we started with a string bean salad, then had the barbecue (ribs, brisket, sausage) with crème fraîche-topped baked potatoes and corn on the cob, then a cheese plate (with figs and honey) and a dessert of vanilla bean ice cream with peaches and blackberries.
Portions were gigantic. There were five of us, and we had so much food leftover that we'll probably all be eating Texas-style barbecue for lunch tomorrow at the winery. My stomach feels like it has been stretched to the limit. I want to lie down. And not wear pants.
So what does all of this have to do with the cat in the egg box?
Absolutely nothing. My camera just somehow automatically deleted the photos I took of my ad hoc cheese plate (and I had drizzled the honey so beautifully!), so now all you get is a picture of Meep in his new favorite spot.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I often hear about wines smelling of petrol, and I thought I knew what this meant.
Until I opened the 1991 Bert Simon Kaseler Kehrnagel Riesling Spatlese from the Saar valley in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. This is the only old Riesling I have ever tasted in my life, and when I stuck my nose in that glass, I felt like I was at a gas station and someone had ignored the "Do not top off" sign and gas was flowing everywhere.
Apparently, this is normal for older Rieslings. (Jancis Robinson mentions it as a wine descriptor many times in her autobiography, and she has a soft spot for Riesling.) It took me awhile to get used to the scent, and I still don't know if that smell will ever be something I absolutely crave in a wine, the way I do with bright cherries and warm spices like nutmeg in Pinot, for example. But maybe it just takes time. Like I said, this was my first experience with an aged Riesling.
The wine itself was wonderful. (From what I've heard, this is a good choice from the 91 vintage, which wasn't the greatest.) It had this deep golden, honeyed color. In the mouth, I got petrol up front, followed by the crispest taste of pear -- it was like biting into a piece of fruit. And the mouthfeel -- I'd say medium, with none of the syrupy-ness that I've found in other Rieslings, which is definitely a plus for me. Even at 16 years old, this wine was refreshing and very much alive.
Also good to note: The alcohol was only 7 percent. Seven percent!! Seriously, I think I drank most of the bottle by myself and didn't feel a thing. Love it. Another plus: This wine was only $17.83, ordered in November 2005 from my favorite retailer.
And I have one more bottle left!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Everyone says that the whole experience -- where you are, who you're with, etc. -- really influences whether or not you'll enjoy a wine. (Which is why when you're wine-tasting, you end up buying things that don't seem to taste as good when you open them at home vs. in a fancy tasting room with all of your friends and a winery employee who's doting on you and telling you all about every flavor and nuance in the wine.)
So let's take a look at last night, The Night of My First Dom Pérignon. I was hanging out at a typical Marina bar with the girls and our teacher from our pole-dancing class. We had just completed Level 5 and received our graduation G-strings. We were by far the most underdressed people at the bar -- we were in sweats/jeans and sweatshirts/hoodies, faces sans makeup. Meanwhile, all the other girls there looked like they had just gone shopping in L.A. and had gotten their hair professionally blown out an hour earlier. (Side note: Marina people boggle my mind. How do people look like this all the time?)
And in addition to this clothing disparity, I pulled my hamstring doing the splits in class last night, so I had an ice pack strapped to my leg with -- you guessed it -- the graduation G-string.
So there we were: Seven ladies, not caring what we looked like, just happy to have some time to hang out and celebrate our ability to climb a pole, flip upside down and slide down it head-first. (Trust me, there is something truly empowering about knowing you have the upper-body strength to do this.) We were chattering away, when suddenly, a random guy from the table next to us announced that he thought we were intimidating but he wanted to buy us a bottle of Dom Pérignon.
How can you turn down a $400 bottle of wine? I don't think I've even been in the same room with this stuff before.
So he ordered it -- a 1995 Dom Rosé, which reminded me of French toast covered in berries. It was perfectly balanced and delicious.
But then we started talking to the guy, only to discover that he was from La Cañada, which is where I went to high school. And he actually went to the Catholic boys school that was our brother school -- I was on their homecoming court way back in the day in 1996. (And remember: I hated high school largely because of the people I went to school with. All rich and annoying, kind of like the Marina.)
And upon further discussion, we discovered he was the oldest son from "Home Improvement." And he made sure to tell us he now works in production for Ashton Kutcher's show "Punk'd." (The guy also kept flashing his credit cards and dropping names. Did I mention the word "annoying"?)
And then we found out that he and his friends thought we were some kind of lesbian feminist book club/discussion group.
(Side note: Are straight women not allowed to be smart and have heated discussions? Are we also not allowed out of the house unless we look like we are going to a photoshoot?)
So now, alas, I will forever associate the Dom Pérignon 1995 Rosé with stupid, stupid boys.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I spent last night and Tuesday night in Calistoga for our national sales and marketing meeting.
The location was beautiful. The meeting was good. I ate nice meals and drank Sauternes.
But 90 percent of my photos are of the white cat I found meowing outside the screen door of my hotel room. I named him Mr. Meatball. He spent the night. He sat on my lap while I worked on Powerpoint presentations. He purred non-stop.
The one thing I'm regretting right now: Not bringing Mr. Meatball home with me.