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Kegs and Kitchen

But enough about wine; let’s talk about me and my friends for a moment:  my husband is a home brewer and a bit of a hop-head, which means that despite the fact that he’s not very into wine, we can at least relate vis-a-vis our respective liquid fascinations. I’m way much totally more of a foodie than he is, and in that realm he just demonstrates the patience and enjoyment of my pleasure that makes him the only man I would ever be married to from now on. Plus, I have foodie friends with whom I can geek out about obscure cuisines and new cooking techniques.

Kegs and Kitchen is written by a good friend of ours who is my Main Man to tell about a neat way to cook beets or a new source for organic, local goat cheese. He does most/all of the cooking in his marriage, as do I, and his love for beer is fairly equivalent to my love for wine. There are two things I really enjoy about his blog, which for the record I would love whether I knew him or not: great writing and fascinating beer and food pairings.

How can you not love a blog in which a barley wine‘s texture is described as feeling “like I’m pouring wet cement in my mouth”? Or pairs caramelized apple crostini with a witbeer that tastes “like you got a smack upside the head from Granny Smith”? He gives you recipes for all the dishes he prepares, and he photographs them all just beautifully.

He’ll probably kill me for hyping him up, as he’s been having trouble getting the time to post much, but you should really scamper over to Kegs and Kitchen. The recipes are divine, the beer reviews are inspiring and the blog itself really extends the genre, as all good writing should do.

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Addendum to WBW#42: words and wine

Reviewing a wine in 7 words: it was the best of ways, it was the worst of ways.

I know that the idea behind the Wine Blogging Wednesday #42 seven word limit was meant in a whimsical way, but it got me to thinking about the words we use to talk about wine. Of course, this has been a subject on my mind lately, as evidenced by the poll I’ve been running for a week or so about whether or not winespeak makes it difficult to learn about wine.

The results to the polls indicate that while occasional words are confusing (technical words like carbonic maceration and battonage, I’m guessing), on the whole people get what we wineaux mean when we babble on about aromas and flavors. Or at least, 8 of the 13 voters said so.

I can’t blame them; some of the more technical words having to do with wine are not things that you’d natrually just pick up on the side of the etymological road.  And you won’t get a chance to use them very often, unless you have lots of wine geek friends or you work in the business.

So that’s been kicking around in my head, along with all the other maundering thoughts of recession, elections, new jobs and the old What I Should Be Doing Right Now.  And then Andrew Barrow of the British wine blog Spittoon (love that tag line) proposed that we review a wine in only seven words, I thought “Boy, that’s going to be tough.”   My reviews tend to run about 200-500 words, and the tasting notes alone run 30-80, depending on the wine.  How to truly sum up a wine for my readers in a mere seven?

Poetry to the rescue!  Mr. Rogers got me writing poetry since before I could write (I dictated to my mother); I don’t write many poems these day, but if you want to communicate a lot of sensation in few words, a poem is your magic bullet.  So I figured I’d take those shockingly few seven words and make them a haiku.  It was tough, but I was happy with the results.

So now I’m thinking… why not other poetic forms? Why not a sonnet about a wine you love dearly? A villanelle about a wine you drink often? Drinking a wine that’s so complex it seems almost impossible, try a sestina! For a rustic vin de table, a limerick?   If poetry communicates the ineffable, then it seems made for wine, as anyone talking about wine is describing a completely subjective, sensual experience.  Poetry and wine!  Game, set, match.

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Ikea to the rescue

Fancy cellarThe last note for a while about my burgeoning cellar, I promise: when shopping at Ikea recently for kitchen cabinets (we’re remodeling our kitchen at the end of the month, a fact which fills me with unreasoning dread), my beloved and I stumbled across a wine storage system which would store 80+ bottles… for only $100!

While Tom could very easily make me a wine rack, we’re embroiled in this remodel currently, and he’s also working on building us our own tear-drop trailer. So we figured to take the easy way out, and he put them together for me yesterday, an unusually cold rainy Saturday which would have kept him in doors anyway.

We located the new rack in the hall closet. I don’t know where we’re going to put all the camping gear that lived in there before – it’s hunched in the corner of the guest room, whimpering and bewildered.

For those of you that dream of someday owning your very own wine collection, bottles gently aging toward perfection, there are a few things you need to consider in the placement of your treasure trove. Firstly, light: wine hates it, and you don’t want your wine to learn to be a hater. Choose a wine storage location away from light.

Secondly, temperature: we call wine collections “cellars” because traditionally wine was kept in the basement, because there is little to no temperature variation underground. Sure, if you spring for a refrigerator to keep your wine in, you can store it at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, just like it would be kept in a cellar. Or if you actually have a basement (something largely uncommon in my neighborhood of houses built on solid limestone, and not so much with the tornados), you can keep your juice there with much sense of tradition. But simply giving your wine somewhere to sleep that will have a constant temperature (in my house, this means in the center of the home, close to the floor) is completely acceptable. Especially if you’ve got the dark part taken care of.

Thirdly, inclination: with the advent of the Stelvin closure, this is becoming less vital, but if you are storing bottles closed with corks, you need them to stay wet. Horses may sleep standing up, but wine doesn’t like it. Treat your wine better than the airlines treat all of us, and let it lay down to rest. Your corks will stay moist and pull-able, and everyone will live happily ever after.

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Am I professional enough for CellarTracker?

I spent many hours this weekend geeking my ass off on CellarTracker. If you are not yet familiar with this means of exhaustive wine cataloging, CellarTracker is a website that allows a user to log all the bottles in her cellar, including such details as when a bottle was purchased, how much it cost, when it should be drunk, where it’s being stored, et cetera ad infinitum.

Age-ableThis was necessary because I have finally been allowing myself to purchase wine. Not that I haven’t been buying the wine I’ve been tasting for you lo these last months — but a lot of my tasting has been in events and at wine bars. I have not until recently been able to afford to keep more than about 6 bottles around the house.

And look at me go! I learned, after pulling all my bottles out of the pantry and reorganizing them via the interwebs, that after relaxing the old purse strings for a mere 2 months, I have over 40 bottles in storage, to the tune of over $500. I have clearly been carried away, especially considering that almost half of my “cellar” is comprised of inexpensive, everyday bottles. Considering how much wine I drink on a weekly basis (not that much), the only word that comes to mind is ridonkulous, gentle reader.

Mostly everyday drinkingNow I need more room. As you’ll see in the photos (finally, I get to show you my rack!), I’m keeping wines organized through a combined system of 12-bottle cases and shippers. Classy, eh? Nothing but the best at Wine Scamp World Headquarters. No, seriously — Mr. Scamp is an accomplished welder and is planning out a dilly of a rack for me, which will allow my collection, such as it is, to top out at 60 bottles. Cross your fingers for me.

But that’s not why I gathered you all here this evening — the subject at hand relates to another aspect of the coolness of CellarTracker. The site allows users to share their own tasting notes in the Personal and Community Tasting section, as well as the tasting notes they’ve found from wine critics in the Professional Tasting section.

Ah ha! I can see I’ve got you now. Where do I put my tasting notes? Do I include the notes I’ve written for Wine Scamp in the Professional Tasting section, all up in the face of Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer? Or do I write separate tasting notes in the Personal and Community Section, a la Dr. Debs?

There are long, fascinating discussions on the blogosphere on this subject. Check out this post on Lenndevours, this one on Catavino and yet another at Fermentation. (There’s an interesting Catavino post regarding Cellartracker and tasting notes in general, if you’ve got the time.) Just so you have a full grasp of the details, I publish this blog via a small business, DBA Wine Scamp, and accept paid advertising on the site. This blog does represent, quixotically or no, an attempt to make money from my writing. It has not yet even begun to turn a profit, but money exists in the equation. I have a day job, of course, which involves some writing, but not in the wine business. I have a Creative Commons license.

So here is where I solicit your opinion — do the wine tasting notes I pen here at Wine Scamp International belong in the Professional Tasting section of CellarTracker? Am I enough of a pro?


Things you don’t know about me

OK, dramatic efforts have returned to the back burner again for a while, and cedar levels are low. I think we might be back on for regular wine blogging! Thanks for your patience, those of you who stuck around. I’m still recovering somewhat from my over-scheduling, so here’s some filler while I catch my breath.

There are lots of things you don’t know about me, and some of them I’m not telling. Here’s what I will publicize on the inter-webs:

I’m a copy-cat. I swiped this idea from Erin at My Life in Vino, who swiped it from This Fish Needs a Bicycle. So I’m a double-copy-cat.



From the Spanish preocuparse, this adjective can mean (1) busy, (2) worried and (3, rather as it might literally translate) preoccupied. OK, really the Spanish for busy is ocupada, but preocupada always had the connotation for me of one who is busied with herself.

All of these apply to me of late; hence this lame apology for my neglect of the Scamp this last Week Or So. I’m still struggling with the stupid cedar pollen allergy I have developed in earnest, and thus can’t taste much. Additionally, I’ve got a performance of a short play (which I co-wrote) this coming Thursday at the Hyde Park Theater’s FronteraFest; if you’re an Austinite and wish to see me in 3D, do scamper on down at 8 pm for the show. Tickets available online at the link, or at the door. There will be two of us on stage; I am the rounder one. If we are Popular and people Vote For Us, we’ll perform again this coming Saturday for the Best of the Week show.

Also, I’ve accepted a new position with a competing general contractor; I’ll be working as their marketing and HR person, which is much more to my taste than the soul-killing dullness of the administrative work I’ve been doing for my current employer for nigh unto 2 years now. I’m incredibly sad to be leaving the wonderful people I’ve been working with for so long, but I’m also very excited to have some work that is challenging and might require the use of my brain. Nonetheless, it was a difficult decision (shockingly to everyone who’s had to suffer through my bitching about my job for so long), and the resultant emotional turmoil has been taking up rather a lot of my time.


I should be back in the saddle again after this week, and I’m sorry to be so lackluster up until then. Usually February is my Cruelest Month, but evidently this year it’s been moved up a bit. Thanks for your continued patience and interest — I’ll have a post or two this week, and more sustained jollillity is soon to come, cross my heart.

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Raking it in

OK, I know December 25th passed a long time ago, but I can’t resist showing off all the awesome-great stuff that Santa (via my family) brought me!

Mr. Bento & Tuesday’s LunchBouteille Call & Brix My sister April and her husband gave me a Mr. Bento (which I adore and have taken to work with me every day this year because that’s exactly how geeky I am, thank you) , as well as a bottle of Bonny Doon Bouteille Call (a raspberry-influenced port) and a package of Brix chocolate. April and Jason didn’t know it, but I have a special place in my heart for Bouteille Call; I love the name and package with ridiculous intensity, so much so that I convinced my wine director at Premier to buy 5 cases of it, and then could never sell it despite my love for the wine. I don’t care, though. It’s the bomb, and they discontinued it, making my little bottle that much more precious.

Food History, Wine BibleWine Temp CorkscrewFrom Mary, an exciting book that was not on my radar: Food: The History of Taste. This book looks fascinating, and I’ve really enjoyed the introduction. Did you know that the cardinal sin of gluttony included such sub-set sins as enjoying your food too much, eating food too daintily, and eating outside of the proper mealtimes? (I can’t help it; I think that’s fascinating.)

From my sister Adrienne, a corkscrew thermometer and the The Wine Bible. I’ll now be able to geek out with impunity about wine temperature! And I’ve wanted a copy of the Wine Bible for a long time — you can never have too many reference books, can you? Karen MacNeil is the wine director for the Culinary Institute of America, so I’m figuring she’s got a bent toward wine education – always a plus in a wine book author.

Tablas Creek Vermentino

From my darling husband, I received a wine club membership to Tablas Creek Vineyard’s VINsider, and my first shipment came in before Xmas, and included two bottles of 05 Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge, and one bottle each of 05 Syrah, 06 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, 06 Vermentino and 05 Grenache Blanc. All have been very flatteringly reviewed by Stephen Tanzer. I’ve buried 5 bottles in my cellar, but here’s a picture of the Vermentino, which I did open this weekend even though my nose did not bring its A-game; review forthcoming.

Thanks everyone for the fantastic, thoughtful gifts! (In case you think Dad was slacking, his gift came in an envelope and was Ridiculously Generous; I am very grateful.) The best part of the holidays, though, was to spend so much time with family, goofing around, eating, drinking and playing.  These times come too seldom, and I relish them.

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Tasting Veritas Monticello Cabernet Franc 2005

Veritas 05 Cabernet FrancWhile in Portland, my husband and I stayed with my father and his partner Mary (and Nikki the dog), in Mary’s gorgeous craftsman bungalow. They’re both wine lovers and keep a respectable-sized cellar in their basement, wherein lie many gently aging bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

On this trip, we drank a lot more beer than wine, my husband having brought 4 liters of his latest homebrew, a double chocolate stout, for all to enjoy. Also, Portland has so many truly great small microbreweries that when I visit, I try to take advantage of being able to walk down the block and fill up the growler. (sighs) I fear Austin will never develop the beer culture Portland enjoys.

In any case, rather than opening any Oregon Pinot Noir this year, Mary pulled out a bottle she had been given as a gift: a wine from Virginia. I’ve never tried a Virginian wine, and in a kind of queer Xmas cultural mash-up, “Yes, Virginia” was all I could say!


Sneezy & Dopey

AchooWell, it’s happened: I am now officially an Austinite. (tho I’ve always been partial to Austinian, myself, or Austinera, for East-siders) What signals my belated welcoming into the fold by the Live Music Capitol of the World? Cedar fever, that’s what.

Austin is a terrible place to move if you are allergic to just about anything, but we consistently log the world’s highest concentrations of Mountain Cedar pollen in the winter months. January is the peak of the season, and for some reason you only really develop an allergy to cedar pollen after living here a couple of years. This is my third winter in Austin, in case you’re wondering. For those who care (and if you do, you’re probably sneezing right now), the tree at fault is not actually a cedar, but rather a juniper tree, and it’s the male tree that explodes all that evil pollen into the winds to torture us.

Symptoms include long, violent sneezing jags, itchy-red-watery eyes, and either a runny nose or a stuffy one. Sometimes they alternate. Sometimes a cough develops. For some reason, many sufferers report feeling exhausted and somnolent, which makes no sense to me but is true. Our pollen count is at about 3000 grains per cubic meter right now, and it’s going to be worse mid-week. I am experiencing all of these symptoms right now, and trees are dumb.

Anyhow, so my wine tasting abilities are going to be a bit sketchy for the next couple of weeks. Unless I cave and go to the allergist for some drugs or injections or something. I’d rather not, as Claritin makes me act like I’m on meth, but it may be that or give up wine until Valentine’s Day. And then what will we talk about?


Gone, baby… gone!

Oh, in case I didn’t mention it (cuz I know I didn’t), I’ll be AWOL for the next week or so.  I’m off to visit my family in Portland, Oregon — Hurray! 

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We’ll be spending a lot of our time in Bend, where there has been heavy snow in answer to all my husband’s Texas prayers.  I don’t think the cabin has web access, so instead of posting I’ll be toasting… marshmallows! 

And toasting you as well, gentle reader.  Thanks for continuing to tune in, and have a very merry collection of holidays.  I’ll see you next year!