Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Outside-the-box summer drinking

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

In summer 2013, I visited the village of Roujan in the South of France. My small group of friends and a horde of strangers were hooting and hollering in anticipation of the Tour de France peloton’s surge through the narrow avenue like a beautifully contained tsunami. It was thrilling.
The chilled and crispy Picpoul de Pinet I was sipping made the experience all the more bucket-list worthy. Delicate and fresh, the wine boasted a wonderful lemon zing. It was cold. It was invigorating. It was exactly right for the experience. And it was from a box.
That wasn’t the only time we drank box wine while in France. It was ubiquitous, with 3-liter boxes openly dispensed from bistros and bars. Boxes of locally made wines were sold to keen residents at grocery stores. On more than one occasion, we remarked how we Americans need to rethink our view of box wines.
For the rest of this story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.

grab some box wine

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back to basics: How old ways of farming are revolutionary

For my brother, Steve, farming is a calling. His connection to the soil has been with him since we were children. Seeing him now, in his chosen profession, feels like watching him happily slosh around in his destiny. I had the chance to interview Steve about his biodynamic farming practices for my column in this month's Los Altos Town Crier.

pinot noir grapes doing their thing
Without meaning to, I wrote a love letter to the farming practices of yesteryear. Here’s what happened.
After hearing the results of the latest climate change report, I, like many people, have been thinking more about how the environment is changing almost directly before our eyes. Then, on the heels of the report, I learned of a pledge Sonoma County vintners made to become the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine region by 2019.
With these two news items percolating in my mind, I thought: Could caring for the environment result in better wine?
It seems the answer would be a clear yes. After all, when I think of green farming practices, I think of an approach to vineyard management that emphasizes quality over quantity.
Could kinder, more conscious farming produce a higher-quality wine? I didn't want to throw another buzzword-heavy article onto the pile of reasons that green is good, so I asked a vintner who practices biodynamic farming.
For the rest of the story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wine of the week

I'm excited to be partnering with Ava's Downtown Market & Deli on offering Wine of the Week selections. 

This week's wine is 2010 Laura Hartwig Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Colchagua Valley ($12.99). Chile, a major player in New World wine for generations, now ranks as the seventh-largest producer of wine in the world. And over the years the quality has improved. 

I think that wines from Chile are often extraordinary values, with 2010 Laura Hartwig Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Colchagua Valley being a great example. 

Lashings of black fruit and soft tobacco. Plus there's that fun graphite quality that let's you say, "I'm getting pencil shavings." 

take chile by the hand!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poetry and wine

For me, poetry and wine are fundamental pleasures in life. The making of each requires passion and purposefulness, tenderness and toil.

With the news of Maya Angelou's passing, I am thinking about how my history as a poet influences my wine writing. It feels somewhat revelatory to see the direct correlation. And yet, it shouldn't.

Both poetry and wine are born of relentlessness. Relentlessness is a cornerstone of creativity in my opinion. 

And so, my love for wine and my love for poetry are in many ways the same love. A love that comes out of appreciation for the eternal fire of the human spirit. 

Angelou writes breathtakingly about our enduring human spirit in her poem "Still I Rise." In Angelou's memory, I quote a bit of the empowering and exquisite poem that so spine-tingling details the power of our perseverance. 

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Her words and works will inspire and inspire and have inspired.  

end of the day in the vineyard

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wine of the week

I'm excited to be partnering with Ava's Downtown Market & Deli on offering Wine of the Week selections. 

This week's wine is Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions 2011 Riesling from Washington State ($14.99)

The 80s didn't just do a number on our collective hairdos. The decade also dragged Riesling's reputation through the mud. 

A lingering infamy for being too sweet still resides in the minds of many wine drinkers. But Riesling deserves your affection. 

The white grape varietal, originally from the Rhine region of Germany, is ultra food friendly and refreshing. Its perfect balance of acidity and sweetness means you can pair it with all varieties of foods -- everything from spicy, spicy Thai to soft cow's milk cheeses. 

Riesling is heavily grown in Washington State, where vintners are doing wonderful things. Milbrandt's Traditions Riesling, from the Columbia Valley Appellation, is a prime example of how passionate wine makers are getting it right. 

The wine will knock your proverbial socks off -- no joke! I served it with chorizo and grilled spring vegetables. It was a joyful pairing.

Visit Ava's Downtown Market & Deli to grab a bottle or two. And while you're there, look for other Sheepish Sommelier recommended wines!

look for sheepish sommelier recommendations!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hip hip Rosé: Celebrating the pinker side of wine

Heat wave = Rosé weather... I'm reposting my article about my summer love with the cooling and zesty wine.


(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

I’ve thought at times that Rosé was doomed to suffer the same fate as an all-too-short summer romance: blissful and breezy but not something meant to be enjoyed post-vacation.

That’s because while I’ve fallen in love with the way a chilled Rosé can accentuate everything good about a summer holiday, I have had hit-and-miss experiences with the wine at home. I’ve ended up with overly fruity or syrupy sweet bottles languishing half-empty in my refrigerator.
Having just spent some time being wooed by the Rosés of Southern France, I’m determined to make my relationship with the refreshing and crispy wine continue now that I’m back on American soil.

For the rest of this story, head over to the Los Altos Town Crier

Summer lovin', had me a glass...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Trying something different...

Earlier this week, I shared my guacamole recipe. Today, the fifth of May, I'm reposting my thoughts on why Torrontes is a wine you should be drinking this Cinco de Mayo. Or, for that matter, any day you serve tacos.


Tacos and Torrontes

I soaked, sorted and slow cooked pinto beans. I seasoned and seared a pork butt. I made guacamole, grated cotija cheese, listened to Lord Huron, squeezed limes, chopped garlic, halved an orange and made promises about inviting company over the next time I generate such a mountain of food. Then, with the beans on a coddle and the pork making its low and slow way to becoming tacos, I thought about what to drink.

what to drink with pork tacos?
Margaritas, obviously. Cold beer, absolutely. Rose, Pinot Noir, Mexican Coke, yes, yes and yes... I vetoed each of these options. Driven to try something different, I decided to chill a bottle of Lamadrid 2011 Torrontes. 

Here's why I'd serve it with this meal again and again: 
There's just the right amount of minerality in the wine to hold its own against the spicy flavors of the pork tacos. Having a few pre-dinner sips proved that this wine can be enjoyed sans-food, but the smoky meat helped the wine show-off its nice buttery spots. Also exciting was how the grapefruit flavors of the Torrontes brought a lovely cheerfulness to the food. Great with the salty tortilla chips and guacamole too.

a choice I'd make again!

A little more on Torrontes (tor-rahn-TEZ)
It has been rumored that Torrontes, a white grape and type of wine from Argentina, is going to take America by storm for some years now. So far, however, it is still a somewhat unknown varietal. I say seek it out at your market or local wine shop. Producers describe it as a 'fun' wine, and the way it bounces around in the mouth is fun. When done with care, the wine balances its acidity with wonderful perfume notes. When done poorly it is somewhat sour and overly alcoholic. Drink it young and look for producers from the La Rioja region in Argentina.