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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Thanks for the Memories – #MWWC34

I am certainly glad I read Jeff The Drunken Cyclist’s Saturday Reminders post this morning. In his post, Jeff offers an ominous warning that the deadline for this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC34), is this Monday! The theme for the challenge this month is “Memory.” Had it not been for Jeff’s nudge, I may have forgotten to write my entry! (See what I did there?)memoryHow embarrassing would it have been for me to forget to write my post, since the theme, Memory, was my idea! As the winner of last month’s challenge (a heartfelt thank you to all who voted for my entry), I had the honor and distinction of selecting this month’s theme. I had originally proposed “Memories”, because I have many fond memories of many great wines, and I was interested to hear about the wine memories of other bloggers. However in a discussion with Jeff he floated the idea of broadening the theme to “Memory” as this expands the interpretation, and accordingly, the fun! Hopefully. Since Jeff is a smart man (he has a Ph. D, after all) and a very successful blogger, I agreed with his idea. (Hey, it never hurts to suck up a little.) With the revised theme, I’m anticipating entries that will range from describing the medicinal benefits of wine, to poetic waxing of fond memories of wines, to humorous stories anecdotes about wine’s ability to affect one’s memory in, shall we say, not so favorable ways. (Disclaimer: I do not encourage or support the overindulgence of any alcoholic beverage. But we all know it happens once in a while, and sometimes the results can be rather hysterical!)

When it comes to memories about wine, I’m something of a savant. I can remember, with vivid clarity that is often annoying to my companions, the exact setting in which we enjoyed a particular bottle. Even if it was several years ago, when I see a familiar label, I can recall where we were, and with whom we enjoyed the wine. That, however, is where this uncanny, photographic memory ends. The name of the restaurant? The answer is hazy. (Especially the further back in the memory banks I must go!) What food we paired with the wine? Not a clue. The weather? What we wore? The music playing? Nope, nope, and nope.

Hook & Ladder

Well, there is one exception to the music part. Several years ago, when my son was in high school, he was a member of the Jazz Choir. The Folsom High School Jazz Choir is highly regarded, and has won multiple awards from Downbeat Magazine, as well as Grammy awards. During his time in the Jazz Choir, my son had the opportunity to meet Julia Dollison, a professional jazz singer and, at the time, co-director of the Jazz Program at nearby California State University, Sacramento. One particular evening, Ms. Dollison was to perform at a restaurant across town. So we made reservations, piled into the car, and went off to enjoy an evening of dinner and jazz. The restaurant has since gone under, and the location has changed names a number of times, so the possibility of ever recovering the name from my memory bank is next to nil. However, the meal was delicious…I think. The jazz was exquisite…I specifically recall. And the wine…oh, the wine! On that memorable evening, the adults at the table enjoyed a delightful bottle of Hook & Ladder “The Tillerman” Red Blend. This was in the days before I had a smart phone, and I wasn’t quite so into wine as I am now, so I didn’t take notes, so I don’t recall the vintage or the details of the wine, except that it was tasty and memorable. But the point is, even after all these years, I can recall the when and the where of this particular wine. Whenever I see a bottle of Hook & Ladder wine, I go back to that evening.

Oh, I have other examples of this freak-show ability; too many to count, in fact. As I mentioned, I’ve been told this superpower can be annoying, but I don’t understand why. Who wouldn’t want a companion who can store useless information, and have it readily available, so you can use your grey cells for more important things, like knowing the square root of 3,479 (its 58.983 in case you’re wondering) or remembering to pick up wine on the way home from work. Now that’s important!

Lavender Ridge

Sometimes, when the event is more recent, my wine memory is much more detailed. Most recently, my friend and I had been out wine tasting in Murphys, California, in the heart of Calaveras wine country. Among other tasting rooms, we stopped in at Lavender Ridge Vineyard, where we fell in love with their white blend, Cotes du Calaveras Blanc. It is an enticing and refreshing blend of 51% Marsanne, 25% Rolle, 12% Roussanne, and 12% Grenache Blanc. We had to have it, so we bought a bottle, among our other purchases. A few weeks later, we took my dad to lunch for Father’s Day. Yes, mom came along, too! My friend suggested we bring the Lavender Ridge bottle to share.Manderes As luck would have it, the restaurant, Manderes, waives corkage if all at the table order a full entrée. No problem there! I had the Steak Salad, one of my favorite entrées there. My friend and my mom both had the Asian Chicken Salad. And dad? He had the Angus Burger with Onion Rings, thank you very much! Despite my dad and me violating the cardinal rule mandating red wine with beef (of course, I spurn silly wine-pairing rules, but that’s a topic for another post.), the entire meal was amazing and the white blend complemented every bite! It was a fun, fantastic meal, and the creation of fond memories for all of us.

What are some of your wine memories? Share your tale in the comments, or better yet, write a blog post about them!

Cheers!

 

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Longing for Some Summertime Red Wine

It’s only the first week of July, but it already feels like a long, hot summer. Here in NorCal we’ve seen near-record heat including a week-long heatwave (seemed more like a month) with temperatures pushing, or exceeding 110°F…and that just was in June!

Naturally, when the mercury rises this high, we all gravitate to the cold, crisp wines. But seriously, one can only drink so much Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé. (Yes, I know the more adventurous among you are cracking refreshing Albariño, Picpoul, and Torrontés. I’ve had my share of those, too!)

What I’m really craving right now is a nice, juicy red wine. But it’s just too hot for a big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Malbec. What is one to do???

Beaujolais.

No, not the young, fun, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau released in November. You should have finished all of that by now. I’m referring to the grown-up, big brother: Beaujolais Villages wines. Made from the same Gamay grape as the youthful Nouveau wines, “standard” Beaujolais is often aged in oak before release, giving it more depth of character while still retaining that light, refreshing flavor that can satisfy your red wine craving in the heat of summer.

The Beaujolais region is located just south of Burgundy, but is actually part of the Rhone region of France. With a warm growing season, the resulting wines tend to be fruity, yet with proper care and aging, can develop complex flavors. The most prized Beaujolais wines are those from the 10 “crus”; those vineyards recognized as the best in the region.

Wandering through my local Total Wine & More store the other day, I was in search of a  red wine that I could pair with a grilled, New York strip steak that wouldn’t be too heavy in the sweltering heat. In a momentary flash of inspiration, I asked the store associate to direct me to the Beaujolais section. He gladly did so, but as I reached for the familiar label of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais (Retail $11.99), the clerk suggested I up my game.Jadot

While there’s nothing wrong with the Jadot (and I bought a bottle for a BBQ that would be attended by less-discerning palates), for a mere $3 more, we could enjoy one of the best-of-the-best…a cru Beaujolais Villages wine. Powerless to resist, a bottle of Jean La Perriere Belles Grives Morgon 2014 landed in my cart. Morgon is one of the cru vineyards, producing superior Gamay. As you can see, the best quality can be had for a bargain price!

As expected, my craving for red wine and red meat was satisfied that night. The steak was cooked to perfection, and with wine was magnificent; fruity and light, yet deep and complex.

 

Belles Grives

Good price point for a Cru Beaujolais. Brick red with garnet rim. Aromas of raspberries and black pepper. Flavors of ripe raspberry, earth, and smoke, with medium body and super soft tannins. Finish is long with red berry, plum, and baking spice.

Retail: $14.99 ($13.49 with the six-bottle discount.)

 

That’s not the end of the story, however. A few days later, we popped open the Jadot at the BBQ party. It was a huge hit, and complemented the Tri-Tip very nicely! Fruit-forward with raspberry and cherry, but less of the oak influence and depth, everyone loved it. That bottle didn’t last long!

If you are already growing weary of summer, and can’t bear the thought of one more Rosé or crisp white, head down to your favorite wine shop and grab a bottle or three of a wallet-friendly Beaujolais Villages red wine. It’ll help you through until Cabernet season!

Cheers!