Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

 

It tastes especially great when drunk out of a pint glass from one of the best open source conferences around.

It tastes especially great when drunk out of a pint glass from one of the best open source conferences around.

Is it a shandy? It it beer soda? Is it (says my husband scornfully) alcoholic Ting?

Who cares? It’s delicious! Stiegl Radler Grapefruit combines Austrian lager with grapefruit juice/soda. Radler means ‘cyclist’ in German and was originally brewed for thirsty cyclists in Austria who wanted a tasty low alcohol beer they could take along on bike rides. This is only 2.5% alcohol, slightly sweet, and perfect for afternoon thirst-quenching. I love low-alcohol beers and wines in the summer.

Yes, I drink beer sometimes. Not very often. OK, pretty rarely, but I like a good beer, especially after mowing the lawn or at a cookout. I definitely prefer a decent beer to mediocre wine. And if there’s only mediocre wine AND mediocre beer, then it’s cocktail time.

 

Tour de France Friday Flight at Vino

tour de france flight from Vino

Never take a picture of 5 bottles back-lit by the summer sun.

This last Friday I flew out the door right after dinner was over so I could enjoy Vino‘s excellent Friday night flight event with my friend Jen. Vino hosts a wine tasting every Friday night of 5 wines for $10. The wines are excellent, the pours are generous, and you can bring in your own food if you want. Needless to say, it’s usually packed. :)

We got there late — around 6:30 — and couldn’t find a seat. We ended up standing at a bar table and tasting through the flight, which was hot but better than nothing. :) Vino is a wine store I will miss when we move to Milwaukie in a few weeks, since they’ve got a stunning selection of fun, off the beaten track wines. Also the owner’s weekly newsletter is hilarious.

My friend Jen knows what she likes, but doesn’t waste her brain with all the vinifera/vinology details that I store. So it was fun to taste with her and get her input on the wines.

Tasting notes:

2012 DOMAINE PIERRE MARCHAND Pouilly Fumé (Loire Valley) $19.95: Straw yellow in the glass. This wine smells floral and gooseyberry-y, with a nose full of coastal breezes and fresh starts. I could smell this wine all day long, and longer. I wish I was smelling it right now. In the mouth, it’s nice and limey, opening up to a wide flavor of mineral stonyness, and finishing off with a slightly metallic whang. Just like Cyrano, this wine is all about the nose. And poetry and deceit and seduction, but focus on the nose.

wine flight glasses

This is what a flight of wine looks like if you put all the glasses on the numbers so you can keep track.

2013 L’HERMAS Vin de Pays Saint-Guilhem-Desert (Languedoc) $16.95: This rosé has a pale, salmon blush color. Even though the wine was a perfect temperature for tasting, the nose was kind of closed off here. I smelled lemon zest over unripe strawberries, with maybe a little herbal scent on the very edges, just barely showing up. And then you take a sip and this wine is Fun! Fun! FUN! A slight petillance (spritz) on the tongue makes you think of pop rocks, except not sweet. Instead these flavors are also very minerally with über-restrained rapeberries stuffed with thyme.

2012 DOMAINE DES FORGES Anjou Gamay (Loire Valley) $10.95: This wine was deep purple, with earthy musty dusty black licorice on the nose and an overly plushy pillow of a palate covered with faux fur. Finish was persistent but wallowy. I wondered if this wine was slightly corked, to be honest. I heard people buying it after the tasting, and based on this taste I couldn’t tell you why.

2012 DOMAINE POLI Niellucio “Ile de Beauté” (Corsica) $13.95: THIS wine, though. THIS WINE. It’s from Corsica, but it’s sassy and bouncy, as if someone made a wine from Clippy. Garnet in color, this one smells like baking spices and plums. Nutmeg. Cherries. Cloves. Fern spores. When you get tired of figuring out if that underleaf smell is really what fern spores smell like and take a drink, you’ll enjoy a sproingy, well-balanced wine full of fruit, enthusiasm, and presence, with a finish of sandalwood and beet chips which is (enjoyably) long-lasting. Buy, drink, repeat.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening. And I’m even smiling!

2011 DOMAINE LABRANCHE LAFFONT Madiran “Traditions” (Madiran/SW France) $16.95 or 23.95: Huh. Ok, so the tasting sheet at Vino says this wine is $24 but their website says it’s only $17. I like it and wanted it to be about $14 and from Spain, so if it’s really $17 I’d be more likely to buy it. Madiran is kind of in Spain; it’s closer to Spain than lots of parts of France. It was getting trendy right before I left the wine business. Or I was getting trendy, not sure. Anyway, I don’t know if Madiran is trendy anymore or ever was, but this wine is pretty cray-good.

The color is a deep, dark purple-black, like Prince in a terrible mood. Smell it and you’ll enjoy a busy Manhatten street corner of a nose, with bustling vanilla, tobacco, blackberry, spice, earth, and coffee. And maybe some scents I lost in the crowd, like a rookie detective trying to follow a spy on her first day. Except it’s hardly my first day, Bruno. The taste? Oh my. The palate has amazing structure, with this Matrix-like slomo, elegantly composed, complex explosion of cane fruit (that’s mostly blackberries) and black currant with hints of toast and tar underneath. It’s really good, and in retrospect I like it a lot for $17. I’d like it better at $14, but I’m very cheap and maybe you’re not.

 

Liveblogging red wine at WBC14

Live blogging the whites and rosés yesterday was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t attend the reds session this afternoon, but then I talked myself into it. I joined a little late because I spent so long talking WordPress in the lobby with the charming Allison from Please the Palate that I ran my laptop battery nearly dry and had to run up to my room for the power cord I had left there.  She liveblogged the reds too, so if we tasted the same thing, you can compare us. If we diverge greatly, trust her notes, not mine. :)

The Wines

Casey Flat Ranch 2011 Red Blend: (52% Cab, 24% Syrah, 6% Merlot, 1% Viognier) Oak and green pepper on the nose, mashed blackberries, and cedar. Kind of a pruney palate, with lots of pine and forest floor, pretty grippy tannins and a lasting menthol/chestnut flavor on the finish.


Gypsy Canyon 2012 The Collector’s Pinot Noir: BIG pomegranate, spicebox, mushroom, and thyme on the nose. Deep cherry juice on the palate with . Smooth mouthfeel, elegant tannins, with some coffee and blueberry on the finish. $110

Bianchi Heritage Selection Paso Robles 2011 Zinfandel: Pretty classic black pepper and blackberry jam with a nice lifted aspect on the top. Tastes like a good bbq ribs wine: sweet notes without cloying jamminess, but a nice bitey char at the end that I think would balance well with any grilled red meat. Yummy!

If you choose to engage in liveblogging, you might be writing your notes with the winemaker looking over your shoulder at your tasting notes. No pressure! :O

Trione Alexander Valley 2009 Red Wine Blend: Wow, menthol much? Mint/tobacco/green pepper overload. Really green on the nose but super-purple in the glass. I was expecting it to be spare on the tongue but it explodes with juice and goes out like an angry, eucalyptus-laden lamb. $45

Taken Napa Valley 2011 Red Wine: two millennial sons of famous Napa winemakers make this; sophisticated nose of pretty oak, currant, and pepper. Grippy tannins and nce fruit. Nothing wrong with this wine, but it didn’t blow my socks off. $30

Bandit NV Cabernet Sauvignon: You’ve seen this wine in the bright purple Tetrapack “bottle.” Great for camping or floating the river. Unremarkable cabernet with sweet oak, blackberry, and pine needles. Very soft tannins and a pretty vegetal finish, but good with burgers over a campfire I bet. Following the fancy Napa cab blend didn’t do it any favors. :)

Labyrinth Presqu’ile “Clone 667″ 2012 Pinot Noir: Musky sweet/sour burgundy style nose, pretty violets, spice, and subtle herbs. I really enjoy smelling this wine. Smooth and delicious on the tongue, with elegant satiny texture. Extremely well-made. $50

Brecon Estate 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc: Really pretty, floral and fruity nose. The oak lifts the floral spicy smells and complements without competing. Someone said caramel, I guess I can see that. Bright and sassy palate, with not-quite-ripe blackberries and a little tarragon on the finish.

Consilience 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah: Great floral/fruit nose with brisk black pepper. Jammy and grippy on the palate but not overwhelmingly so. Violets? Lavendar? something flowery on the end there. $20

Whew! Let’s not do that again for a while, ok?

WBC14: Panel of Santa Barbara Winemakers

Santa Barbara/San Ynes/Santa Rita are among some of my favorite California regions — I’ve never had a bad wine from this place — so it was both a pleasure to know that the Wine Blogging Conference 2014 would be held here, and also that they kicked off Friday with a panel of Santa Barbara winemakers.

Poor Larry Schaffer had a TERRIBLE time with his slides but had an incredibly legit panel of first-generation, super-famous Santa Barbara winemakers: Bob Lindquist of Qupé, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, and Richard Longoria of Longoria Wines. Lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara of course, and over 50% of the grapes they grow here aren’t vinified here.

Panel question the first: Why Santa Barbara?

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Richard Sanford studied geography in college, came back from Vietnam War wanting to get into agriculture. A bottle of Volnay inspired him to find a place to grow Burgundy-style wine. He thought the places that were growing CA Pinot Noir were too warm, so he wandered around with his themometer in the coastal valleys near San Luis Obispo and bought some land and started a vineyard. The land had never been electrified, and he used gas lights for 6 years. In 1976, they had their first production, and the wines were so well received that they sold out their vintage. They were the first vineyard to grow their grapes organically. He’s super-serious and adorable.

Side note: winemakers are not accomplished conference speakers.

Ken Brown started in sales in IBM and real estate of Sacramento with a degree in finance, but his love for wine started taking over his life, so he went back to school at Fresno State and studied both viticulture and microbiology. His love was Pinot Noir, and he headed up the school vineyard. One of his assignments was to prove the market viability of Santa Barbara wines (guess that worked out). He then herd about this vienyard doing this great Pinot Noir: he headed up there, met Richard Sanford and tasted the best Pinot Noir he’d ever had. Ken was hired by Zaca Mesa winery out of college, and then started his own winery (Byron) in 1984 while he was still the winemaker at Zaca Mesa. Byron Wines was sold to Mondavi in 1990, and planted a 17 acre of experimental Pinot Noir in 1991 to assess all the different clones they had planted. Working with the Mondavis was really important to the development of Santa Barbara County, and in 1993 Ken and his wife opened Ken Brown Wines.

Rick Longoria was taken under the wine by Andre Telecheiff at Buena Vista, who also told him about a new area he was excited about: Santa Barbara County. Firestone was looking for a cellar master, and Rick was hired in 1976 and met his wife there — she was the winery tour guide — and they married in 1977. There were only about 5 wineries in the county. “Napa was becoming Napa in 1978,” but Santa Barbara/San Ynes was still laid back. Longoria, their own brand, stated in 1982 part-time, and not until the 90s did they start doing it full-time. They make a diverse portfolio of wines, because they can — the climate here lets them grow diverse grapes, like Albariño and Tempranillo. Rick describes himself as a restless winemaker, and so what he loves about this region is that he can grow lots of different grapes.

Bob Lindquist has been in the wine business his whole adult life — got the wine bug when he was 25 in the 70s, and got excited about wine at this great wine store, High Times Cellars. He wanted to be a wine retailer at the time: worked for a wholesaler in Ventura for a time, and one of his customers was a little store in Los Olivos and got hired to manage the store in 1979. It was owned by the son of the owner of Zaca Mesa, so he got to know the local winemakers, and fell in love with the area. In late August in 1979, he got fired from the store, and got hired by the owner of Zaca Mesa as a tour guide there. In his spare time, he worked as the cellar rat, working under Ken Brown and Jim Clandenon. A few years later he started Qupé (at the age of 29), making the wines at Zaca Mesa and paying to use their equipment with sweat equity. He fell in love with Syrah, and bought his grapes from Paso Robles but had to add acid to those grapes which told him that Paso Robles was too hot for Syrah. Europeans are always amazed that they can grow excellent Syrah and Pinot Noir so close together here, but that’s the climate.

Panel question the second: Why are you still here?

Richard Sanford says the best is yet to come for Santa Barbara. What excites him is that so many young winemakers have chosen to make wine in the Santa Rita hills.

Ken Brown says once he really began to understand this region that things took off, and he says since vineyards here are only 15 years old, and so he’s excited to see what wines can be made as the vineyards age further.

Richard Longoria is building a new winery so he’s not going anywhere.

Bob Lindquist likes that you don’t need an air conditioner if your house is built the right way, and all his family has set down roots here, so he’s here to stay.

It was such a pleasure to listen to these trailblazing winemakers talk about how they got started in this superb region

WCB14: liveblogging whites and rosés

10 wines in 50 minutes! WAT.

Urban Legends Cellars 2013 Grenache Blanc: oodles of lime, floral notes, quite a whang on the palate with honeydew and lazy peach, not as much of the acidity I was looking for. Fermented stainless with some lees stirring in tank.

Uproot 2012 Grenache Blanc: trying to attract 20somethings, funny little card showing flavors. Kick-ass opulent stone fruit nose here, with pretty high alcohol. Good melon and lemon on the palate. Not completely off-balance, but it tilts much farther away from acid than Urban Legends did. Continue reading

The Science of Alcohol: One Drink and 2 Sips

Photo credit: alsis35

Photo credit: alsis35

I really enjoyed listening to Adam Rogers being interviewed on KCRW’s Good Food (I listen to Good Food via podcast while I’m doing chores) this morning. Adam told Evan about what happens in your body when you take a drink and how there’s little to no evidence that different kinds of alcohol will affect you differently.This totally blows my theory that champagne gives you a bullet-proof “happy buzz” out of the water, alas.

I was particularly interested in the physiology of that “buzzed” state called the “relevant range” that most people hit a few sips into their second drink, and the studies about the placebo effect of cocktails.

If I were a non-fiction reader, I’d totally check out Adam’s book, Proof: The Science of Booze.

I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

Somehow I’ve gone this far without telling many people that I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend in Santa Barbara County, CA, and I couldn’t be more excited! (And nervous!) I get to talk about my two favorite things, wine and WordPress. OK, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress, but I’m sure to mix in a number of good wine-related allegories because that’s how much of a wine geek I am.

My talk is titled Supercharging Your Blogging With WordPress.com, and I’m scheduled for Sunday morning against a photography workshop and a writing workshop. So presumably anyone who comes to my session (other than my work-mates Derek and Rebecca) will be superlative writers and photographers who need to learn more about embedding images and video, managing spam, backups, security, and all the cool stuff that Jetpack lets you do on your self-hosted WordPress site. Oh, and people who didn’t stay up too late drinking on Saturday night. This seems like a good crowd for my inaugural workshop on blogging with WordPress, which will truly be a case study in the thought expressed here:

That being said, the thought of sharing the same “stage” (as it were) with speakers like Eric Asimov and Jancis Robinson is… a little intimidating. Could you tell? Just in case my presentation is less than thrilling, your consolation prize is a video of Jancis Robinson’s keynote from WBC 2011.