Chapter Sixteen. Part Nine.
Every November Beaujolais Nouveau simultaneously arrives at wine shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars all over the world. This special day reminds my generation of a simpler time, a time when we drank cheap, unpretentious wines and missed work the next day. Beaujolais Nouveau has lost much of its appeal but it’s still a fall tradition, an autumnal ritual, a seasonal custom that ranks right up there with getting a flu shot.Read More
On Thanksgiving my family comes together, shares some wine, enjoys a harvest feast, and watches football, football, and more football. It’s an afternoon filled with aggressive, smash-mouth offence and bold defensive maneuvers. Then we turn on the TV and watch the game.
Cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 20 people can be a lot of work and very stressful for everyone involved, by which I mean my wife. Of course I help out in a big way as I’m in charge of the wine and stay far from the kitchen. That probably doesn’t sound like much help to you, but then you haven’t been at my house when the wine locusts arrive. The eighth plague was nothing compared to what happens when my people are thirsty.
My wine selection process is simple. I sit on the front porch and sample wine before the guests arrive. Last year the first wine I tasted was so good that I drank the whole bottle. I wasn’t alone mind you, there were lots of people driving by.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I have a lovely family. In fact I love my wife’s brother like a brother-in-law. We gather around the table and I take a heart-warming look at the family, my Uncle Ralph, the turkey, and then my wife brings in the bird. No casual attire at this table. No sir, even the greens are collard.Read More
The Angel’s Share. It Will Be Mist. (Revisited)
Centuries ago, Cognac producers learned that impermeable oak barrels were very good for keeping spirits in, but not very good at keeping spirits out. When cellarmasters discovered their precious product was disappearing from the barrels locked in their basements, they came to the logical conclusion that angels must be visiting the cellars and drinking from the heavenly casks. The missing portion became known as “la part des anges” or the “angel’s share”. I think most Cognac producers believe the 2% to 4% that disappears every year is fair compensation for the angel’s empyrean influence on their maturing brandy.
Two to four percentage points might not seem like much but it adds up over time. A single Cognac cask holds 263 bottles when full. Sixty years later the angel’s share will reduce that by 83 bottles, or approximately half the Cognac Busta Rhymes and Snoop Doggy Dog drink on Tuesday night. On the bright side, Cognac producers don’t have to pay tax on the missing spirit, leaving me to wonder; what does a line item deduction for angel’s consumption look like on a tax return?Read More
Chapter Sixteen. Part Eleven.
In my last article (and by article I mean rant) I wrote about the popularity of “formulaic recipe wines that use additives and sugar to add weight and mask off flavors”, but today I’m here to tell you there are many wine regions where the dry wine “recipe” does not include residual sugar or the additive mega-purple.
For years families in the Loire Valley have been crafting honest wines using techniques passed down from generation to generation. This vast French wine region surrounds the Loire River as it stretches westward for over 600 miles from its source in the Massif Central to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. This lengthy waterway may pale in comparison to the mighty Amazon River but on the bright side the French don’t have to fend off man-eating piranhas.Read More
How the sweet red wine trend sent me off my rocker.
It’s the fall wine-tasting season and after sampling a thousand wines over the past month I’m left with the uneasy feeling that I may be suffering from old-timer’s disease. The symptoms include difficulty understanding why red wines are getting sweeter, confusion about labels that look like gothic murder scenes, and appalling marksmanship around the spit bucket. I think there might also be something about forgetfulness.
You may be thinking, “Aw fiddlesticks! Tasting wine doesn’t make you feel old.”
Just as sure as eggs is eggs there’s a chasm forming in the bedrock of wines priced under $20 that make us prellennials scratch our balding heads and wonder what in tarnation is going on. I feel old because by golly, I can remember back in the day when wines were dry!Read More
Gloria Steinem wrote, “More reliably than anything else on earth, the road will force you to live in the present.”
Oddly enough, Ms. Steinem’s words inspired me to revisit the past. This is a tale about life on the road – a passion I discovered long before wine but found no less intoxicating.
It’s not like I thought I was going to die.
My canteen had run dry the previous day, the last of my granola two days before that. I desperately missed the water, the granola not so much. Sure, I was in a desert without food and water, dehydrated, exhausted, a Barry Manilow tune stuck in my head, but I didn’t think it would kill me. I only hoped it would.Read More
New Jersey summers are spent ‘down the shore.’ Every year my family heads south to read books on the beach, create music on the deck, and paint. Over the course of our vacation the growing collection of watercolor paintings, almost exclusively seascapes, flowers and lighthouses, compete for a coveted spot on the refrigerator door.
My wife Caroline brings her favorite watercolor books for inspiration and for the last few years that has included Margrit Mondavi’s Sketchbook, Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance, and Life. Caroline owns two copies of Margrit’s autobiography. The first copy, dog-eared, sand filled and paint spattered, comes with us to the beach. The second copy, pristine and autographed, is kept safely tucked away at home and in Caroline’s heart.Read More
So you think 2016 has been a bizarre year? In 2006 the Vice President shot his friend in the face with a shotgun and Sacha Baron Cohen won a Golden Globe Best Actor award for his portrayal of Borat. But hey, the news wasn’t all bad in 2006. I was ten years younger, my friends had never heard of obstructive sleep apnea, and the world was still blissfully unaware of Justin Bieber.
In California the wine trade was schizophrenically trying to evaluate the 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. Wine historian Jancis Robinson called 2006, “Far from a banner year”¹ while Bo Barrett, winemaker for Chateau Montelena, told the Napa Valley Vintners, “It should be a bitchin’ vintage!”²
Suspecting the facts would fall somewhere in the middle, WineSnark canvassed some politicians to find out the truth.
Ha ha ha ha!Read More
Napa Valley has proven time and again that when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon (and its half-sibling Meritage), it is capable of producing some of the world’s most jaw-dropping, heart-thumping, and awe-inspiring interpretations of this celebrated variety. Napa Valley Cabernet’s most provincial quality, some might argue its finest quality, is its graceful power. Not its significant weight and texture- which can present itself like a sumo wrestler in a silk robe, nor its lumbering relationship with oak – which has been known to make termites weep with joy, not even its bold concentration, although it can offer palette-crushing substance. No, the reason we celebrate Napa Valley Cabernet is the same reason we embrace Olympic Rugby but not Olympic Badminton. It’s the reason we love Star Wars, Stephen King, NASCAR, and ribeye with the bone in.Read More
Chapter Sixteen. Part Seven.
After the French Revolution, the vast vineyards of Burgundy – properties that had been controlled by nobility and by the Catholic Church since the middle ages – were confiscated by the state and auctioned off to local farmers and tradesmen. The Napoleonic code also put an end to primogeniture. It’s worth pointing out that Napoleon was referring to primogeniture, the practice of leaving ones entire estate to the eldest child, and not the Italian porn star Primo Geniture.
The abolition of primogeniture meant that an estate would henceforth be divided between all of the rightful offspring, even the ones who never called home on their parent’s birthdays.Read More