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Wine not tasting good enough? Salt it.

26 Nov

If you haven’t been to Harvard’s Science and Cooking lectures, it’s your free opportunity to geek out with Ferran Adrià, David Chang, Wylie Dufresne– basically, people you wouldn’t mind hiring to cater your death row meal. They come into town to give a lecture, and the food science faculty takes them out for ice cream. In a dorm. Yeah, that’s way po-mo hipster brainy cute, no?

Anyhow, last night’s lecture was from Nathan Myhrvold, mad polymathic genius behind Modernist Cuisine, the gifting of which automatically makes me Girlfriend of the Year (or so I keep telling Gin Savant) for the next six of them.

So after an hour of really cool videos in which the audience oohed and aahed at food changing phases, and you know, SCIENCE bitches, he drops in this coy little takeaway: if your wine isn’t savory enough for your liking, put a teensy pinch of fine-ground salt in it. Red or white. Myhrvold said he did it right in front of Gina Gallo with one of her Cabs, the cheeky imp. This is also the guy who thinks running wine through a blender is a thing. Myhrvold said that we salt food to bring balance and amplification to flavors and food, so why not do it with wine?

Some wines do indeed already have a marked, pleasing taste of salinity–also called sapidity in certain sommelier circles, which makes me think “stupidity” or “vapidity.” A lot of times these wines are made in areas near the sea, as you might expect: reds from Apulia in southern Italy, assyrtikos from Santorini, Greece. Oceanfront access is not a requirement, either, as you’ll find it in wines from vineyards along the Murray River in New South Wales and Victoria, and in the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Muscadets from the Loire tend to be salty (and perhaps one of the reasons they go so well with oysters).

I tried it with the Aglianico del Vulture in my fridge that was probably open a day too late, and it only magnified the metallic taste you get with a wine that’s been overly oxidized. Then I tried it with a newly opened Basque red and that threw everything out of balance. My suspicion is that it might work really well with a northern Italian red from one of the mountainous regions like Alto Adige–I’ve long been a fan of their acidic whites, but found their reds, due to the cold, less than thrilling. If you try it, report back in the comments and I’ll do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some recent writing, Part I

8 Mar

In which I opine on pairing pea soup and pizza; and headaches.

Best wine books of 2012

28 Dec

So Chris, my colleague at Likelii, and I put together a list of the wine books we thought really stood out in 2012. It got picked up by Wine Daily News and even Terroirist.com–which freaked out my non-wino friends who read my excited email too quickly…..

Wise words for the holidays

12 Dec
One-stop holiday shopping

Better than Old Navy for the entire family.

Ironically enough, I will be giving less booze for Christmas this year. No real reason, other than I think people are starting to expect it from me.

Hey! Check out the guest post I wrote

17 Nov

My friend Karen, a future B&B proprietor, writes a blog about hospitality over at PorkBelly Posts and asked me to drop a couple of lines about wine. . . so I did. Check it here–then, tell me what YOUR holiday oeno-plans and faves are. I can always use some inspiration!

Quick hit: Mexican Petite Sirah (yeah, really)

25 Sep
casino wine list Mohegan Sun

Photographic proof, in case you didn't believe me

Mexico doesn’t export a lot of their wine–and it’s not like Sicily that specializes in crazy obscure grapes. Nope, they’re growing lots of known names like Chardonnay, Tempranillo (that’s for you Rioja-heads) and Italian hits like Barbera and Nebbiolo. And here’s another shocker: they make even more of it than Canada does, although most of it’s to make brandy. A lot of it is produced in Baja California, since there’s high elevation and it’s close to those cooling Pacific breezes to keep the grapes from getting more baked than the Ei Felta Thi fraternity on spring break.

L.A. Cetto Wines from Guadalupe is one of Mexico’s leading wineries. Their Petite Sirah was full of red strawberry/cherry flavors, which was interesting since the grape when grown in more traditional areas has more inky blue and black berry flavors. The L.A. Cetto version definitely had a sharp acidity to it that Petite Syrah tends to have.

It would probably make an okay sangria, though you’d have to hold back a little on the hard alcohol you used in order not to overcome the wine. Not particularly complex, but it was drinkable enough and definitely showed a lot of its rustic peasant Italian heritage.

Mohegan Sun Sol Toro restaurant, $8 by the glass

So I’m officially working* in the wine industry** now.

29 Jul

*part-timey basis
** probably more like “wine tourism,” but why split hairs?

I’m now a Wine Ambassador for City Wine Tours. The story of how this came to pass is full of fortuitous little moments and connections, and I’m very excited to be working for a cool company that’s partnered with some of Boston’s stand-out wine destinations (no, I’m paid to lead tours, not say that). They’ve got a really interesting model, and they’re already traipsing around the South End, Back Bay, and Harvard Square too. And they’ve only been doing this for about four months. I’m the ninth Ambassador (woo! ground floor single digits!)

I’ll be leading my first crew through the North End this Saturday, when I am supposed to be studying for the CSW exam I’m taking on Wednesday. But hey, there are still 80 hours for me to learn the new EU appellation laws.

In addition to being able to say “yeah, I’m in the industry” in a blasé voice when I talk to someone who knows waaaaaay more than I do, it’s kind of a big deal for me because I was a volunteer tour guide up until six years ago for a non-profit. I loved showing my city off to tourists and telling them about why Boston was so special (well, duh, for starters, it doesn’t look like a Disneyfied strip mall like half this country does, but I digress). I loved telling the stories about how Trinity Church got built, or the scandal in the Boston Public Library courtyard. The tour had definite start and stop times–and when I got to the end, I’d say to the group “we’re supposed to say goodbye here, but I’ve got more stuff to tell you. So if you want to keep going, I’m game.” I wasn’t supposed to do that. I loved it when they all kept following me, because it meant they cared. They were having a good time.

That ended when I broke my leg on a tour (geez, this sounds like a Farrelly Brothers movie). The organization’s reaction was distant and minimally concerned. All I wanted was to know to know they cared, after all the years of time and training I had put in with them. They mailed me a book about the literary history of Concord instead.

So I figured that was the end of my time on the trail. I found myself instead accosting lost-looking tourists on the sidewalk with confused faces and foldout maps with “hey! You need some help?” But yet, Fate had other plans, etc etc. Destiny, ya can’t fight it. So I hope to see you on a tour soon; I’ll post a schedule of appearances when I’ve got them.

A red you bring home to Mom

5 May

My mom hates is scared of red wine. In fact, a lot of people I know are. I hear the reasons all the time: It gives me a headache/rash/other weird physical thingie. I don’t like a challenge. I only like Chardonnay, because I’m unadventurous. Or I’m so scared about how to pair things with food, I just don’t want to think about it.

So here’s an anecdote about the power of social media: I was in my neighborhood “wine store” (quotes because I find it lacking in a lot of ways) because I was too lazy to get in the car and drive to a decent wine store to pick up my assignment for my tasting group when I came across Apothic Red, which I first became familiar with because they started following me on Twitter. So, as a polite Tweet-type, I followed them back. And here they were, smack in my hood. So of course, I had to try it. Yay, power of social media!

Apothic Red 2009 is a blend of California Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel–all fairly friendly wines. The name comes from some ‘mysterious” alleged dark ages “apotheca” where wine was stored by monks, alchemists and warlocks or whatever. That sounded like the marketing wizards in full force, but I digress.

The irony is that there’s nothing mysterious about this wine.

When you know enough about wine to a) spout your gob off without much b) a pain in the ass to undereducated wine store clerks c) sought out by your friends for recommendations, you kind of want your fermented grape juice to be a challenge. A little bit of a puzzle or challenge. Something you can tussle with. Something that’s going to stay on your mind. Kind of like dating. For me, Apothic Red was a pleasant enough encounter, but I wasn’t going to call it again.

Wine is supposed to develop and evolve from when it hits your lips to when it goes down your throat. This one didn’t. Sure, it was chockablock of cherry, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla. Things I like. And what do those things make really well? Candy. This was definitely a candy wine: easy to consume in mass quantities. It’s off-dry (which means there’s sweetness without wielding soda-level sucrosity <–no, I don't think that's a real word) and there are next to no tannins. It's a one-note wine. This is not a wine that tells of the struggle of some idealistic, dedicated vintner who works the land out of love and a little madness. You can imagine this wine has been focused-grouped and manipulated to appeal to as few objections about red as possible.

And that’s okay. And if that's your kink, that's cool. Here's one for your shopping list. You could serve this at a party and pretty much with a lot of things for dinner and mix up some decent sangria with the leftovers. It won't offend anyone.

Ironically enough, I think my mom might like it, precisely because it's not challenging. So maybe I will be bringing it home to her.


$12 from a place I’m not gonna name because while the store is nothing special, the people are nice–one of them going so far as to offer to bootleg me a copy of his MC5 documentary. Also available, according to Apothic’s website, at Blanchard’s Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, The Urban Grape, Bauer Wines, Huntington Liquors, Reservoir Wines, Marty’s Newton, Ball Square, Gordon’s, Liquor Land, Martignetti’s and a gazillion other places.

Words fail. Just thoughts.

2 May

On a certain day in 2001, a close friend called me to turn on the news. Tonight the Gin Savant had to call me to do the same. Thinking tonight of my college classmates and neighbors who were on doomed planes. How the nation rallied around a controversial president and how I hope we can do the same 10 years later. About a certain soldier I never knew but wish I had. About the guy who did know that soldier and would send him prayers to look after my brother-in-law on his second and third tours of duty. About that very same brother-in-law who was almost killed during the Baghdad invasion and has been dealing with issues ever since. For journalists like Daniel Pearl and the badassly brave Buffy Neuffer who died in pursuit of bringing the world the truth. For the soldiers and peaceful civilians who gave their lives for reasons and in ways that were not always clear-cut, fair, or just. About the curtailing forced upon us of our liberties.

I wanted to drink something from 2001 tonight. This Twelve Staves McLaren Vale Shiraz was the first thing I found. Calm, quiet, smooth, and comforting, with just a little unresolved, inconclusive, melancholy edge of bitterness and heat.

Pic coming soon. It was a late night watching the news and being on deadline for a client.

Back in the day circa 2003, I got this at Cambridge Discount Liquors for $24, down from $32. I haven’t seen much of Twelve Staves for sale in these parts since.

Spring cleaning giveaway: Picco Vino cards

24 Apr

I bought a bunch of these handy little thingies for impromptu gifts and stocking stuffers. They’ve always been a big hit, and now I’m giving five of ’em away to whoever emails me at the address below.

Picco Vino: the world of wine...at your fingertips! Whee!

These Picco Vino “Professional Wine Tasting” folders are about the size of a stack of three credit cards, fold up into a handy spill-proof plastic sleeve and give you a crash course in awesome top-secret wine flavors, tasting technique and terminology so you too can look like a pretentious douchecanoe knowledgeable wine consumer and patron. The folder profiles flavor aspects of numerous different wines, so you can fake your way convincingly through blind tastings. It has an aroma wheel which can help prompt you when you can’t think of what that wacky fruit you taste or smell is, and provides guidelines for the “correct” serving temperatures and how to remember your jeroboams from your rehoboams.

Caveat: the copyright on this is 2004, 3rd edition, which renders the vintage chart on this pretty useless. But through the power of Googlemagic, I’ve determined that this seems to be the most recent edition ever printed, so it’s not like this is like one of those purposefully mislabeled $5 used textbooks on Amazon where you’re looking for the 13th edition and get the 11th.

A peek at spining the aroma wheel.

A peek at spining the aroma wheel.

But seriously, I tend to ignore vintage charts, and you probably should too. First, 90% of wine purchased is chugged in the parking lot on the way home usually drunk the day it’s purchased, so chances are most of you out there ain’t collecting and saving it for the apocalypse (unlike me, but better a single woman collecting Cabs instead of cats, amirite?). Second, vintage charts oversimplify regions: there’s no way, for instance to accurately gauge the maturity of wines in one area, say Napa or the Loire, without taking into account the dozens of microclimates you encounter in the same region. Third, not every wine is mean to be stored for the long term, so no chart is going to help you if the wine was stored badly, made shittily, and tainted from the get-go.

Vinodivino in Newton, where I picked them up in the first place, still has a lot of them if you ever need a cool party favor or mass group gift.

The first five people who email me at kissmyglasswine at gmail get one!