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Wine

09 Jul 2014
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We are in a grape. Dave and I are in the grape—yes, you heard me right. It's a contemporary wonder of Italian architecture called The Acino, named after an Italian word for grape. We’re looking through its translucent ethylene skin at a steady rain drizzling over acres and acres of Piedmont-region wine grapes. Nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto—the important reds. And arneis, a white grape with a loyal following in Northern Italy’s most-prestigious wine region. The interior of this structure is 500 square meters, large enough for a hearty wine tasting event. And that’s pretty much the purpose of Ceretto Winery’s little building, an addendum to their ancient estate. I’m reminded of a Napa wine mogul who built a European medieval-style castle just for fun. I write in my notebook: “Napa builds a castle with a view of grapes. Piedmont builds a grape with a view of castles.” Because we’re in Italy,…
11 Jun 2014
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The night I drink the Montefalco Rosso, Cesarini Sartori Fiorella, 2009—a blend of sangiovese, merlot, cabernet and sagrantino—might more aptly be dubbed Sunday afternoon. I’ve been napping, dozing between the bells that ring out from a nearby Italian church. The bells clang one long, low DONG for the hour, and a brisker, lighter dong for each 15 minutes incrementally. So 1:30 goes like this: “DONG dong dong.” That’s when I take a break from the hot day and sprawl out on my mattress. The power went out for a minute yesterday. The digital clock next to my bed is flashing the wrong time. No matter. The bells keep me on track. “DONG DONG DONG dong dong dong.” I roll over and reset the clock to 15:46. Because I’m in Europe. There’s no confusing repetition of a 12-hour cycle here. A girl trucks through life one ’til 24. So it goes.…
14 May 2014
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Wednesday On the night we open the Milano 2004 Redwood Valley Valdiguié, Dave skips his Italian-language class to stay home with me. Nice, right? Because of our jobs, my husband and I live hundreds of miles apart. We’re together a few days a month. The down side? Living alone; doing housework and errands and chores alone; cooking alone; and drinking good wine during our nightly Skype chats. Together—but alone. The up side? We make the most of time together. Doing housework and chores together becomes a novelty. Meals are magical moments. When together, we drink our spectacular wines—smooth golden oldies or obscure varietals, bottles we don’t want to drink alone. What’s not to love about a monthly honeymoon? This month, it’s my turn to drive from my California home to Dave’s place in Reno. The house is at the desert’s edge, overlooking the Truckee Meadows and Sierra Nevada foothills. In…
16 Apr 2014
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Some day in the not-too-distant future, I want to make wine. But I don’t want to ruin perfectly good grapes. So I’m training myself on bread. Sourdough bread, specifically. This spring, I’ve been nurturing a sourdough culture: lactic-acid bacteria and yeast, feeding and reproducing on wheat flour and water. What’s growing looks like gluey carbonated yogurt. Aptly called starter. The bread-making process isn’t unlike the wine-making process. Both grapes and wheat undergo chemical changes as bacteria and yeast reproduce, causing fermentation, alcohol and gas production, and the tasty conversion of acids. To be honest, I started messing with sourdough because friends were baking it. I enjoy gnawing on a tangy bit of bread while I slurp fermented red. So, yum! Sourdough pairs with cabs. With merlot and sangiovese and barbera and aglianico. A few great pairings: • An earthy mourvèdre with sourdough and baked brie, drizzled with honey and garnished…
19 Mar 2014
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An older couple in a BMW drove randomly, stopping in directionless confusion at one busy intersection before zipping illegally around a car parked at a stoplight and lurching up the Highway 101 onramp. “I’m going to assume everyone on the road is sloshed,” said Dave. Fair assumption. Drivers might be three sheets to the wine wind anywhere. But Paso Robles—not quite a five-hour drive from Palm Springs, just north of San Luis Obispo—sports 120 wine tasting rooms sprawled over a twisting, hilly maze of country roads. It’s no wonder the Paso Wines website recommends swishing and spitting when tasting. Or hiring a driver. Speaking of hired drivers: I must give a shout-out to my extremely responsible husband, who limited himself to tiny tastes so that I could drink. Which is why I was three sheets to the wine as I wrote notes for this column in the front seat of…
11 Feb 2014
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If you want to make it rain in wine country, you can try the usual magic rituals—like washing your car, planning a sunny picnic or forgetting your raincoat. Or you can simply decide to write about the impact of drought on the wine industry. The sky was clear when I started thinking about water and wine, as I drove up the bone-dry Interstate 5—desert dry, crispy dry, whispy dry—in late January. I’d been jarred by stark images from NASA’s Terra satellite, showing a swath of tan mountains reaching up along the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley, juxtaposed with a 2013 shot of a snowy white Sierra Nevada. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in California on Jan. 17. A few days later, state health officials released a list of 17 communities and water districts—from Mendocino County to Kern County—that could run dry before summer if no action was taken.…
22 Jan 2014
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If wine grapes made noise, Mourvèdre would hum low and long, like a foghorn thrumming out a warning in the dark, thick stratus. Perhaps a melodic tune would emerge—something a stand-up gal could capture with the strings of her bass. Thum-bum-ba-dum, hum-ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. If grapes had personalities, Mourvèdre would be the brooding dude standing on the party’s outer ring like a non-sequitur, quoting Sartre and the obvious. “Consciousness is prior to nothingness and ‘is derived’ from being,” he’d say. “Weather forecast for tonight: Dark.” Mourvèdre captures my imagination, and inspires the notes of black and blue paint that are making a muddy glum on my canvas. I’m drinking and painting—or at least using assorted brushes to glop oil pigment on stretched white fabric. I’m brandishing the artistic confidence of a 4-year-old not yet ruined by school. A friend is staying at my place, and we are drinking and painting…
25 Dec 2013
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The couple picks up a bottle of expensive wine for a special occasion—something off the top shelf at the strip-mall liquor store, perhaps. They know they like cabernet sauvignon. But faced with a row of bottles that are relatively pricy, they’re lost. What year? What winery? In the end, they choose the wine with the most-attractive label. Call it crapshoot cab. Maybe they like it. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they won’t be able to figure out, exactly, why this wine costs more than a case of three-buck chuck. Is it really that good? They may think: Are we just too stupid to appreciate the finer qualities of this wine? Nah. Really, all wine is a crapshoot. Like lovers, no two bottles of wine are alike—and they won’t ever be experienced in the same way twice. But if you’re after an erotic experience with a bottle of fine wine, keep a…