Sunday, December 14, 2008

Remembering better times...when it was actually warm outside!

People who live outside the Southeast are often surprised at how cold it can get in the winter. We've also been pretty dismayed at this year's turn of temperatures. My personal indicators of "when it gets cold" -- wearing my long wool/cashmere coat, having to bring the potted plants inside at night, putting flannel sheets on the bed -- have all come earlier than in the past.

I'm not complaining about the sheets or the coat, but I wonder if my poor plants are going to make it, especially since the basil got one whiff of the below-40 temperatures and promptly died in spite of having been moved into the warmer garage. I'd bring it inside the house, but I have gourmet felines, including one who will eat aromatic vegetables and herbs. I know that basil can successfully over-winter in a sunny spot inside because a former employer did just that with a plant I gave him. It even appeared dressed up as a Christmas tree in their family holiday photo!

Hubby, who is sitting behind me at his desk and checking his email, just told me, "Hilton wants us to visit Madison, Wisconsin!" My response was a prompt, "Hell, no!" I also don't want to hear about how we're wimps from people in the northern Midwest, who are already dealing with several feet of snow. As for the Northeast, well, they now see why everything shuts down at the mention of snow or ice; you just can't drive on ice, and it makes a huge mess.

With all this talk of cold temperatures and places, I think I'll turn my mind to a warmer time: November 1 and the Decatur Wine Festival. I promised Decatur Package Store's Herb that I would write about it; sorry it took so long! The Wine Fest wasn't so warm for him and the others who had to set up and tear down because it was a clear day, cold in the morning, and then up to the mid-seventies in the afternoon. Once the sun set, the temperature fell again.

Here's a quick description for those who aren't familiar with the Wine Fest. The event takes over the Decatur Square from the area behind the Old Courthouse (where the Bandstand is) to the part of the square on top of the MARTA station. This year there were fifty tables, each from a different winery or distributor, lined up around the edges of the designated area. Some distributors bring a lot of wines and have more than one table. Several Decatur restaurants also have tables where you can try items from their menus. Often they bring signature dishes; for example, Feast is usually out there with a big pot of their famous white chocolate bread pudding.

Of course it's impossible to taste every single wine. First, the festival is only three hours long. Second, a lot of tables start to run out toward the end of the day. Third, even if you have phenomenal tolerance, you've got to pace yourself. Hubby and I have a "two sip, three strike" rule: If the wine isn't good after two sips (two to allow for the interference of previous tastes), it gets poured. If you try three wines at a table and they all suck, move on.

I thought I got a good sampling, but I'm sure I missed some good ones. Also, I also only have names since vintages were not provided for most of the wines, and things moved too fast for me to get them. For the same reasons, my notes are briefer than usual. Wines listed without any comments were checked off, which means we drank them, but they were neither horrible nor fabulous, and they're likely worth another try without so many other things having crowded our palates.

Table 10: Firestone Vineyards
Firestone Select Chardonnay: drinks like a Verdejo.
Firestone Select Cabernet: light Cab
Firestone Select Riesling: sweet, but not too sweet

Tables 11-12: Banfi
Trivento Select Malbec: Ok
Casillero del Diablo Carmenere
Banfi Sauv Blanc/Chardonnay
Principessa Gavia Gavi: like water (no, I'm not sure what this means)
Banfi Rosa Regale: a great sparkling sweet wine; Hubby and I ran to the Feast table to pair it with the bread pudding, which went well with it

Table 14: Trinchero Family Estates
The Show Cabernet
Angoves Nine Vines Rose

Table 15: Old Bridge Cellars
D'Arry's Original: Shiraz/Grenache
Innocent Bystander Shiraz Viognier

Table 16: Prestige Wholesale:
Mark West Pinot Noir: Ok
Avalon Napa Cabernet
Van Ruiten Cab-Shiraz: Light & smooth
Van Ruiten Old Vine Zin: Got a star, which means we really liked it

Tables 17-19: Quality Wine & Spirits
Sawbuck Malbec
Ercavio White: Ok
Castano Rose: Ok
Oyster Bay Sauv. Blanc
Ciacci Piccolomini IGT: Got a smiley, so we really liked it
Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz: Bleh, smoky
D'Andezon Rhone

Table 20: Unique World Wines
Zolo Malbec
Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay: Wants food
Nell Pinot Noir

Tables 21-22: Grapefields
El Coto Rioja
Astica Sauvignon Blanc
Campante Vina Reboreda

Tables 23-24: Catamarca Imports
Printhie Shiraz-Viognier
Reinares Tempranillo
Mercedes Eguren Shiraz-Tempranillo
Santos Beck Torrontes
Santos Beck Malbec
Santos Beck Gran Malbec

Table 25: New World Wines
Vinas de Balbo Rose

By the time we hit tables 26 and above, a lot of them were out, and the wines had been sitting out, so we tasted fewer of them.

Table 27: Pacific Southern
Kenwood Sonoma Cabernet
NO Sauvignon Blanc: um, No
Lake Sonoma Cabernet

Table 29: Diageo
B&G Bistro Pinot Noir
Archetype Shiraz

Table 30: Centera
Monkey Bay Rose

Table 36: Sherlock's
I have to give Warner and Darryl credit here. They were aware of the potentially deleterious effects of direct sunlight on red wine and made efforts to keep it at a drinkable temperature. Still, since I'd tried many of the wines before, I limited my time there.
Nicolis Amarone Classico: unsweet raisin

Table 37: Hemispheres
Centennial Bong Bong Shiraz
Icaria Creek Alexander Valley Cab

Table 47: Treana
Liberty School Cabernet
Westside Red, Rhone Blend
Treana Red Cabernet-Syrah

Here are some survival tips for the Wine Fest. I'll post them again when it's time for the next one.

First, start with the tables over the MARTA station. The wines, especially the reds, got hot by the end of the afternoon because the area is in full sun.

Second, bring a bottle of water and/or avail yourself of the ones there, if offered. Even though there are jugs with water at the table, it's not going to be enough to stay hydrated while drinking wine, especially if it's hot and dry outside.

I'll probably think of more between now and next November.

And the best news -- the weather forecast for Decatur has us going up to 70 on Wednesday! Just ignore the rain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sustainable Poetry?

Last night's JavaMonkey tasting was advertised as "Sustainable Wines." It turned out to be "Sustainable Wines from one particular winery in Chile." However, considering it was brought to us by the same distributor who gave Jess the 2006 cask of Nouveau for the Beaujolais release party a couple of weeks ago, I'm not going to quibble over the details. By the way, I was at JavaMonkey when the rep brought a replacement cask, yet I don't know what happened to that one. Hmmm...

We had almost a full cast of characters for this one, which made it all the more enjoyable. I'll attribute quotes where applicable. Dan suggested that those of us who had them should wear our berets from the previous tasting. Three of us did. Maybe that's why things got so silly toward the end.

2007 Natura Sauvignon Blanc Valle Casablanca, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
Funky, smoky nose with a hint of petrol, but the flavor was a citrus-grapefruit explosion on the palate. Here's how the rest of the discussion went:

Dan: "It's a little effervescent."
TheLaw (his preference, not mine): "Speak f*ckin' English, dude!"
Dan: "I can't, I'm wearing a beret."

2007 Novas Chardonnay Valle Casablanca, Chile:
Rating: Good
Metallic vanilla nose with a smoky, oaky taste. Others at the table described it as "olive juice," and "everything I hate about Chardonnay."

2007 Natura Merlot Valle Rapel, Chile:
Rating: Meh/Moo*
The wine rep described this one as having "surprising boldness." My first reaction was, "It's a bit rough." Others at the table described it as "cough drop," "could be vinegar -- it would be good with some olive oil," and "ah, the elusive eucalyptus!" (guess who that was?) It had an odd, salty finish.

2005 Novas Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Valle Central, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
70% Cab, 30% Merlot
Nice dark fruit nose and dark berry/jammy on the palate.

2007 Natura Carmenere Valle Colchagua, Chile:
Rating: Very Good
Mostly Carmenere with 1% Malbec, 4% Tempranillo, 4% Syrah, and 4% Petit Verdot
With that blend, I shouldn't have been so surprised at how dark and almost inky this was coming out of the bottle. The texture was buttery with lots and lots of dark fruit, almost like blackberry pie, but not too sweet. Dan described it as "meaty" and "unctuous." This earned him another big word reprimand from TheLaw.

2005 Novas Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Colchagua, Chile:
Rating: Good
This one had a stinky nose. After that, it was fine with nice berry notes in the middle, but it disappeared on the end and left a disappointing finish.

After Dan spouted impressive adjectives all night, his brain put them and other interesting words together under the beret, and he started writing out wine haiku. I responded with:

Black beret, so flat
Gives you delusions of great
Profound artistry

It devolved -- yes, there was room for things to spiral downward -- into limericks. I won't burden you with mine. Maybe Dan will post some of his at his blog.

Oh, and for those who are curious about what I look like, here's another picture:

I didn't say I'd make it easy for you!

*Wine Ratings go from Moo (very bad) to Meh to Okay to Good to Very Good to Excellent.