The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

November 10, 2009

Here’s to a seat at the Nick, The Cellar on Greene, the TRUSTUS Tasting, birthdays, family and food — cheers Y’all!

As some of you may be aware, this time last year I had just celebrated the inauguration of the Year of Wine — or the year of wining and whining as the Beer Doctor is so fond of saying.  I had chosen the occasion of my humphth birthday to embark on an intense study and appreciation of all things wine, having known just enough about wine initially to know that there was oh-so-much more to learn.  Well, much to my dismay, the months on the calendar whisked right away in the wind, and before I knew it, the same date rolled around once again, sadly bringing the year of wine to a close.

I’ve learned quite a bit.  My travels have taken me to several of France’s wine destinations where I’ve wondered through the Champagne district’s chalky caves, gotten lost in Burgundy’s enumerate vineyards, and immersed myself in Alsace’s spicy Gewurtz’s, Rieslings, and Pinot Gris’s.  We’ve traveled twice to California’s beautiful rolling hills and, happily, I only broke my nose there once.  I even gave the wines of Virginia a shot and found that, though inconsistent, they did present a brand new quality of delicacy to my palate — which shouldn’t be dismissed just because it is so different from most other wines.  We had hoped to also travel to Argentina, as well as back to Italy — just for the wine — but just as it did with the Bob’s Year of Beer, time got away from us — so these countries, and more, are still on our to-do list.  Our cellar is far fatter than it ever was and has taken over our fairly large walk-in pantry — there is literally nothing edible in there at all anymore — and will soon be spreading to the closet under the stairs — thanks for that idea to my friend, who will remain anonymous because she is having her closet converted into a cellar for her beloved as a birthday surprise — hmmm … wonder if I could score a little trompe l’oeil on my closet door, too? The one casualty of the Year of Wine, other than my nose, is the reality that bad wine is far more difficult to stomach than it ever was — and in many ways I have Ricky Mollohan, Kaitlin Ohlinger, and the rest of the good people at the Cellar on Greene to thank for that.  There is no such thing as bad wine at the Cellar, and my palate has effectively been spoiled.  Thanks guys, thanks a lot.

I celebrated my birthday on Sunday this year, and rather than the fairly immense blow-out wine tasting party that we enjoyed last year, I was more in the mood for a quiet family gathering at Muddy Ford.  It was a decision deliciously well made.  The Beer Doc created for me a beautiful Chateaubriand with bernaise sauce, my second favorite liquid — next to vino — in the world.  Annie put together a phenomenally rich potatoes dauphinoise and her lovely signature sauted vegetables.  Bonnie even got into the kitchen (she found it on her own and all!) and whipped up a scrumptious asparagus and mushroom saute — a dish of which she and I share a love.

If you’ve ever been to a meal at the Ford, you know how long it takes us to cook.  But that’s ok, because we have to also take the necessary time to fully enjoy the wines we are drinking in the process.  We started our Sunday in the kitchen off with a Clicquot Yellow Lable bubbly, followed by a 2003 Schramsburg Brut, which we much preferred.  With dinner we vertically tasted one of Helen Turley’s 2001 Magnificats — which was glorious — alongside an amazing 2006 Darioush cab — easily one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year.  Presents were served with red velvet cake — and I’m happy to say that everyone shopped locally this year, with an emphasis on jewelry and assorted creations by local artists.  My favorite (and most highly requested) gift, however, was my very own seat in the Nick’s new theatre on Main Street.  So, Larry, if  you’re listening, I’d like to take my seat as soon as possible, dear.

Even though the Year of Wine is officially over, I can promise you that the wining and whining is not.  Just for one example, I will  happily be attending the TRUSTUS wine tasting benefit at City Art in the Vista on Tuesday night, killing two very important birds — the drinking of good wine & the support of TRUSTUS Theatre, one of the most important arts institutions our city can claim — with one only slightly tipsy stone.  You can be there, too.  We’ll be tasting 8 wines — two bubblies, 2 whites, 2 reds, and 2 ports — for a cost of only $45 in advance, or $50 at the door.  I hope you’ll join me for a taste and a toast — to all good things – wine, family, food, friends, and art.

Cheers, Y’all!

June 18, 2009

Down the rue toward Eguisheim

We awoke our first morning in Riquewihr to a room full of smoke.  Upon rising it became obvious that the crisp cross ventilation we’d enjoyed as we drifted off to sleep the night before put us downwind from myriad chimneys spewing forth morning breakfast smoke.  A sense of anachronism flooded me as I looked out over the antiquated tile rooftops at the gushing chimneys interspersed with antennae and satellite dishes. I envied the residents who seemed so capable of blending the most root-bound of the old with the most convenient of the new. 

From Riquewihr, the Rue Du Vin led us through villages competing with one another for awards of quaintest, cutest and most delicious in their offerings of local juices.  One of our favorite stops was Ribeauville (pronounced “ree-bo-vee-yay),a beautiful gathering of medieval buildings sneaking in and out of the shadows of the Vosges mountains.   It was in Ribeauville that we visited the house of Trimbach, Alsatian wine producers since 1621.  Trimbach is an Alsatian label many people may recognize from our wine shelves in the US and, in fact, Trimbach does export in the neighborhood of half of their product.  Trimbach is also one of the exporting wineries that does not list their wines as Grand Crus, despite their meeting Grand Cru standards.  (There are 51 Grand Crus in the Alsace region, but some controversy over the whether the lines for grand crus were drawn too large.) 

Our Alsatian travels these days also allowed us to taste select wines from Hugel (another label that may be familiar to you) as well as Dopff and Irion, JungSchneider et Fils, Jean Ziegler, Preiss Zimmer, and one of our favorites, Luis Sipp.  The Jean Ziegler 2005 Grand Cru Sporen Gewurtz was among our favorites — round and spicy with a long and complex finish — delicious.  We also enjoyed the Trimbach 2002 Pinot  Gris Reserve which we found to also have a heavy, honeyed nose with a long finish that proved both smokey and spicy.  Particularly fun in the Trimbach line up was the 2002 Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives (means late harvest and therefore somewhat sweet and robust).  It was unusually balanced for a sweet wine and should keep for another twenty years.  Other highlights included the Louis Sipp  2003 Riesling Kirschberg Grand Cru and their 2004 Gewurtz Osterberg Grand Cru (spicy enough to find its way home in our suitcase), and the Siegel 2004 Guwurtz Mauberg (out of Kazersberg) and Pierre Sparr’s 2004 Gewurtz Grand Cru Sporen (who took the journey as well.) 

I’ll just take a moment here to sing the praises of a little treasure I found on the Interwebs called the Wine Mummy.  These are resealable super-padded sacks for transporting ones vino surreptitiously in ones suitcase.  (We also purchased hard-sided luggage to further protect our souvenirs on their journey to our humble cellar.)  The Wine Mummies worked wonderfully, allowing us to safely bring home five bottles, the only mishap being a small leakage in the Mauberg, requiring us to consume it within days of arrival — but that was probably due to a less than snug cork.  Here’s the link: http://www.winemummy.com/

Transporting wine from Europe is one of those things we though we’d get around once we got there but so far have been unable to.  We did purchase a pricey case of a mixture of lovelies from Aux Marches Vins in Beaune — but have been in negotiations with someone with an Hispanic accent (no idea on this)  for a few days now about how to get it to our doorstep.  Fingers crossed.

After three days in Riquewihr it was time to move on down the Alsatian wine road to it’s lower end.  As it was Saturday and we had some experience with the vast Colmar market from a previous visit, we set our sights on making it there.  Village markets are one of those glorious aspects of travel that everyone should experience some time.  Depending on the size of the town, markets happen only once or twice a week.  The streets are cleared of parking and traffic, and vendors of everything from comestibles including fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sausages, meats, candies and baked goods, to clothing — both basic and fashionable, to toys, antiques and art fill the open spaces.  If you’re in Germany you may smell the sizzle of freshly cooked sausages; in the Netherlands, stroopwaffles crisping on the griddle.  At a later market in Beaune we saw whole pigs roasting on spits and tables full of freshly cooked lamb and chicken.  These weekly markets have been going on in their respective villages for literally hundreds of years.  Yes, most villages also have clothing stores and groceries, and some even have the equivalent of our supermarkets and department stores.  But weekly markets are so much a part of culture and tradition that many of the chain type merchants actually close their doors on market days.  For the visitor, it’s a feast of sight and smell and sound. 

After Colmar we found our new temporary home in a tiny, off-the-beaten-track village called Eguisheim (pronounced “Egg-ish-heim”) — the Auberge du Remparts.  http://auberge.du.rempart.free.fr/site/  Remparts may best be described as a circle of medieval buildings that encompass the original town center, or centre ville.  Think “ramparts” in English.  The Auberge du Rempart is built within these walls.  The hotel itself is built around a large and antiquated fountain that also serves as the center piece for dining alfresco, lunch, dinner and breakfast.  We ate dinner there every night — honestly, we couldn’t think of a reason to not.

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