Monday, January 28, 2008

Metapost: Comments

It was brought to my attention by one of my readers that there has been some difficulty with leaving comments. I've now set it that anyone can leave comments, so hopefully this has fixed the problem. I apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for being patient with me as I'm learning all of this.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Famous drunk guys -- Happy Birthday(s) to 2 of them!

This weekend marks the celebration of the birthdays of two creative geniuses. I don't know with certainty whether they actually were "drunk guys," although Robert Burns had quite the reputation, but both of them were born in the 1750's, which meant that they lived before modern water and sewage systems. Thus, they likely drank fermented beverages because those were the only ones that were "safe," and really, who hasn't drunk a bit too much of the fermented stuff every now and again?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. He's well-known for a large body of classical music including symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and, of course, operas. My favorites are the symphony No. 40 in G minor (K 550) and anything that was used in the Smurfs. Oh, and the piano Sonata in C, which everyone who took piano for more than 3 years ended up learning and which was featured in the movie "Groundhog Day." Poor Mozart probably had to drink German wines, which probably contributed to his early death (my speculation), although he may have had access to better wines through his noble patrons. It probably depended on whether they were at war with France at the time.

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759. There's no doubt that he enjoyed the fermented stuff, but I suspect that it was mostly Scotch. He's hailed as the national poet of Scotland and has given us the words to the depressing Auld Lang Syne, which always makes me want to have a drink, and many humorous poems such as "To A Louse" and "To A Mouse." His birthday is often celebrated with "Burns' Night," which, in the 'States, involves a bunch of individuals of (sometimes doubtful) Scottish heritage getting together to drink Tennant's or Scotch and reading or reciting his poems in (definitely terrible) Scottish accents. The exception is in Montgomery, where the St. Andrews' Society does it up all formal-like at the Montgomery Country Club and really kills the festive mood.

Here are my suggestions for celebrating...

Mozart's birthday: You could go with either a German wine or an Austrian one. My pick for this year was the 2006 Rosenberg Gruner Veltliner. Yes, it's Austrian. For those who may think that wines from that particular part of the world are always going to be really sweet, think again. This one has fruit, floral, and a good bit of mineral and acid. It's overall very well-balanced and food friendly -- and not a bit sweet! Just don't get the foil cutter out for this one; it's a screw top.

Robert Burns' birthday: After the Scots signed the Auld Alliance in 1295, they got to experience French wines (because you know they're not growing grapes up there). I don't really have a current favorite, so go out and find a nice Bordeaux blend for yourself, then come back and tell me. Or just have a Scotch.

So, my dear fellow oenophiles, put on some good music, read some fun poetry, and enjoy the last few hours of the weekend!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wine tasting notes: Down Under wines

This evening's tasting at my favorite coffee shop/wine bar featured wines from Australia, and really, what's not to like about the Land Down Under? It's a country and continent all in one, it even has its own cheesy 80's song, and one of its most beloved animals, the koala, is drunk all the time on eucalyptus and still manages to be adorable, if a little funny-smelling (yes, I've seen/smelled one in person). But really, with all the good wines in Australia, who wouldn't want to be constantly intoxicated?

This wine tasting was one of the best ones in a while. The wines:

1. 2006 Heartland Viognier-Pinot Gris from Langhorne Creek: It was nice, crisp, and dry, and the two grapes balanced each other out very nicely.

2. 2006 Woop Woop "V" from the Limestone Coast: The wine rep informed us that Woop Woop is the Australian equivalent for "middle of nowhere" and not, as I had suspected, the means by which little Australians are made. This one hit the palate with a rush of fruit and floral flavors, then turned suddenly into a mineral monster for the finish.

3. 2006 Milton Park Shiraz from Barossa in Southeastern Australia: Imagine, if you will, a typical Australian shiraz. Now make it light, less tannic, and with a smooth, buttery finish. This was a really nice surprise and drinks well on its own.

4. 2005 Woop Woop Cabernet Sauvignon from Southeastern Australia: It was a cab, very tannic and acidic. This is the only wine on the list that rated merely an "ok" from me.

5. 2006 Black Chook Shiraz-Viognier from South Australia: One of the gentlemen at our table dubbed this to be a "jail bait" wine in that he felt it wanted to be a little older, but I liked it now. Nice cherry flavors ended up in a smooth finish. And, like you would expect from a Shiraz-Viognier, it was as pretty in the glass as it was on the palate.

6. Grant Burge 10 year Tawny, NV from Barossa Valley: Kudos to Jess and the wine rep for including a dessert wine in the lineup! This was like breakfast (in bed) in the glass with flavors of toasted almond, coffee, and maple syrup. I also heard "waffles" used to describe it. The grapes were Grenache, Mataro, and Shiraz. I haven't heard of Mataro before, but you can't go wrong with the other two. It went really well with a piece of almond chocolate cake.

Wine of the evening: The port seemed to be a strong favorite, but of the non-dessert wines, the w00t (wine One Oughta taste) award goes to a white wine: the Heartland Viognier-Pinot Gris, which got an overwhelming number of votes. Others with two or more votes: the Milton Park Shiraz and the Black Chook Shiraz Viognier.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Keepin' it warm?

Tonight it's going below freezing for the somethingth night in a row here in the ATL. Actually, it was only above freezing for a couple of hours today, long enough for my husband to drag my lazy ass to the gym, then to the grocery store, where, miraculously, there was still some milk and bread left on the shelves. My porch plants, which have been sequestered in the garage for about a week now, are totally saying, "WTF?" That's pretty much what we're saying, too.

So how does an oenophile stay warm on chilly nights such as this? Warm wine drinks! The one that follows is a beautifully simple recipe that was concocted by my mother many years back for a gathering on the feast of Christ the King (which, for those of you who aren't Catholic, is the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. Yes, Christ is honored as king just before he's gotta go back and do it all over again. Silly liturgical year).


16 oz of apple cider
1-2 sticks cinnamon
burgundy (a jug burgundy is perfectly acceptable in this context)

Put the apple cider and cinnamon in a saucepan and set over medium heat until warm, but don't boil. Add approximately 2 oz of burgundy to each mug of cider. Season to taste. Serves 1-2. Multiply as needed.

Goes well through the holidays and beyond. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wine cred? Part I -- These places make wine???

I can't remember exactly when I graduated from the cheap, sweet stuff to "real" wines, but it must have been before 2002, when my husband and I stumbled in to -- and, admittedly, out of -- the Georgia Wine Fest. A group of my friends from graduate school and we had all chipped in and rented a large cabin near Helen for the Memorial Day weekend, and after a morning of tubing, we decided to go wine tasting at the Habersham Winery. Being graduate students, we tended to be unaware of the details of the world around us, and although we noticed that there were a lot of people in Helen that weekend, we were surprised that there was actually a festival dedicated to showcasing Georgia wines. The wine bouncer at the door told us that tickets were fifteen dollars. Some in the group thought it was a great deal: all the wine you can drink for fifteen bucks, and you get a glass! We thought it would be a good chance to taste wines that we wouldn't find elsewhere. That's where we got our first "expensive" bottle, a $24 bottle of Merlot (hey, we were in grad school!), and where we were exposed to wine culture for the first time. Georgia may be a strange place to start, but you've got to start somewhere.

Georgia was only the first odd place that we tasted wine. We've also tried wines in Arkansas, which has one plateau with the perfect micro-climate for growing wine grapes. Remember season one of the Simple Life television show? Okay, me, neither, but I don't watch reality t.v. That's the area where it was filmed. As if the proximity of Paris Hilton's and Nicole Ritchie's launch to fame to the wineries wasn't odd enough, Arkansas wines are the only ones that are allowed to be sold in the grocery stores, or at least that was the situation when I lived there in 2003-2004. For all others, I had to go to a liquor store. No, I never saw Paris, Nicole, or Bill. The Arkansas wines tended to be a little sweeter due to the German heritage of many of the wine-makers.

The third unexpected place we've tasted wine is around the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Apparently the big wine growing area is in a different part of the state, so I don't really feel it fair to give an opinion of NC wines quite yet. Let's just say that they must be serious because there's a winery and tasting room right by the airport (Chatham Hill).

Just to clear up any confusion that I'm a wine freak who only tastes in states that are a) convenient or b) not usually thought of as making wine, I do plan to chronicle my husband's and my trips to California (Sonoma County) and the Pacific Northwest (Willamette, Okanagan Valley, and various areas in Washington) in the future.

My husband's and my long-term goal is to taste wines in all of the states that make it. This should be an interesting journey. The short-term goal is to enjoy all the wine we brought back from our last trip.

Wine of the evening: Windmill old-vine Zinfandel, California
Like a lot of the zins from the Lodi area of California, this one is big and fruity as well as very smooth. It's the wine of the evening because it pairs really well with chocolate.