Saturday, June 30, 2012

Picasso at the AGO

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I had a great week leading up to the long weekend. Went out to see the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario; these were pieces from the Musée National Picasso in Paris, an amazing collection of more than 150 of the master's paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. The Musée is undergoing renovations, which is why we're getting the chance to see these pieces in person, with Toronto being the only Canadian city on the tour, and its final destination before returning to Paris.

We actually arrived downtown in time for lunch, passing through Chinatown (haven't been there in an age!) before arriving at Kensington Market. We found this little place called El Trompo, serving really authentic, fresh Mexican food. The guacamole was very fresh, perfectly seasoned. the chuleta and tinga tacos were delicious (roasted pork chop and spicy pulled chicken), as well as their own jalapeño dipping sauce. All downed with a bottle of Negra Modelo, a perfect way to enjoy a lunch out on the patio.

The exhibit was incredible. The pieces were shown chronologically, giving you a distinct sense of the evolution of his style (and his many mistresses). Oh yes, he was a lover of women, even if his pieces don't always seem to reflect that. His female nudes are so incredibly reductive, deconstructing the women to nothing more than eyes, nose, breasts, and legs. And just penises everywhere, especially around the times when he took up with a new mistress. I actually found a few of the pieces from his Blue period incredibly powerful. They have this quiet intensity that I find more impactful than many of his later works. His later works are so un-subtle, so raging that it's almost surprising to see how masterful he was at creating more tender, pianissimo ones.

This was not a subtle man. I suppose the most obvious and impressive aspect of Picasso is his creativity. Simply incredible, to see him continue to experiment and challenge well into his 70's and 80's. A romantic all around - he married his last wife when he was 72 and she was 27. Go check out the exhibit; it leaves August 26. A great day at the AGO.

DF

Friday, June 29, 2012

out in the sun

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2011 La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Rosé | AC Bandol

What is better than icy cold rosé in the summer? I ask again, what is better than icy cold rosé in the summer??? So good even the squirrels wanted in on the action.

It feels so European doesn't it, to think of alcohol as a thirst-quencher. As a North American, if you're thirsty, you grab a water. Or some kind of pop - right, because you need to replace all that sweat with sugar and preservatives. It makes more sense to think of wine when we need to slake our manly thirst if we were talking about jug wine. Chugging a proper wine . . . almost seems blasphemous. But yet on a hot, humid afternoon, this Bandol rosé perfected that role as a simple, refreshing drink to repel the heat.

The long weekend's here! Some dinners planned, some wines planned. Honestly, the only thing I want to be doing for the next few days is cook, eat, drink, sleep off the drink, and do it all over again. Hey, I met a really cute girl at a party last week. Pretty sure she doesn't remember my name, ha ha.

These Bandol wines are just la bomba. Fresh, bone dry, really aromatic. High alcohol too, and at 14.5%, it's not going to be the outdoor heat that'll make you swoon. But most importantly, it's all about the colour. All shades of pink and red. It's love baby, all love.

DF

Thursday, June 28, 2012

shed, shed, shed it off

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Among the infinite reasons why I love old wines is the simple fact that only old wines hammer home the truth that wines are products of agriculture that come from a very, very real place. Wine isn't sterile . . . it isn't supposed to be. It's not supposed to be made clean; at least not the interesting ones. I'm no winemaker, nothing close, but aiming for technically precise wines is a cop-out. That kind of middle-of-the-road, "pure" fruit, low acid, softly structured style is nothing more than a chemistry experiment. Naw, it takes a bit more to make real wine.

If you claim to be expressing the land, you have to truly express the goddamn land. The vineyard, the soil, the climate . . . it's all a living thing, so of course the wines have to express that. So you want to see change as the wine develops, as it sheds off its youthful baby fat and develops complexity, nuance, character. Sometimes it's not all clean, and the development isn't smooth. But so what. It is what it is.

So maybe seeing a lot of sediment when I was decanting a 10 year old wine was a good thing. Maybe I'm making it out to be a bigger deal than it really is. But when we taste, we really need to ask (and answer) a very simple, fundamental question: regardless of personal preference, and whether we personally enjoy it or not . . . is the wine a true expression of where it's from, when it was made, and how it came into being?

DF

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

a first look at 2006 St-Émilion

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2006 Château Pindefleurs | AC St-Émilion Grand Cru

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2006 Château Grand Corbin-Despagne | AC St-Émilion Grand Cru Classé

Two weekends ago, I opened a pair of 2006 St-Émilions, which I had been holding onto since release. No particular reason why it was these two; no, actually, there's a very good reason why it's these two. Both were relatively inexpensive compared to the other bottles in that En Primeur order, and I had previously tasted the 2006 Pindefleurs nearly 3 years ago. Major thoughts from that tasting? A modern wine in every sense, that syrupy fruit, awkward and ungainly on the palate, all with a touch of brett. So it was safe to say that I didn't harbour any high expectations for either one of these wines.

That may have been why I ended up so satisfied with both.

No special treatment at all; just a quick chill in the fridge, and we drank both wines over 3 days with dinner. Immediately, the Pindefleurs was brilliant, slightly earthy, but completely shedding that baby fat and revealing a beautiful purity in its fruit. Minerally too, and developing quite a nice texture on the palate. This is 90% merlot, and 5% each of the two cabernets. Very finely structured as well. And the wine holds up very well with air, drinking very nicely on the third day.

The 2006 Grand Corbin-Despagne (profile here, by Chris Kissack) is a wine composed of 75% merlot, 24% cabernet franc, and only 1% (or similarly insignificant amount) of cabernet sauvignon. Press sheet for the 2006 vintage here. It opens up with quite a rustic character, needing a night in the fridge to blow off. And it just keeps getting better and better and better. Showing ever more pure, with the fruit becoming sweeter with air. Incredible elegance already, with a distinct structure for easily another 10 years. It's that cabernet franc, such an important varietal for aromatic complexity and backbone. A lovely, lovely wine. This producer, of course, was mired in the 2006 St-Émilion classification mess, when it was finally upgraded to Grand Cru Classé, only to see some de-classified producers file litigation to have the entire classification ruling overturned. It's back in its rightful place, as a GCC - taste the wine, and you'll see why.

What a great first look at the 2006's. Very excited for their future. I think there's so much good wine that we sometimes forget about Bordeaux. After all, it's only a handful of the great classified growths that are getting all the attention; meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of little producers are crafting wines that are very good, and very exciting indeed with only a fraction of the press. Maybe buying all that Bordeaux was a good idea after all.

It's going to be an exciting day today. Going to go see the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The last time these works will be shown in North America, before they return to Paris permanently. Looking forward to art in the morning, then a nice, leisurely lunch and drink in the afternoon!

DF

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

chimichurri

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Grilling is idiot-proof cooking, right? The sort of can't get wrong kind of cooking, which is why men insist on taking charge (and also because there's fire involved).

That is so juvenile. And wrong.

Proper grilling (with charcoal) is difficult, because it's tricky to nail down that cooking fundamental - temperature control. It's easy to sizzle and burn anything to a char; just walk into any Greek restaurant to experience overcooked, blackened food. Perfectly grilled food is difficult to achieve, but completely worth the time to practice, over and over again; food just tastes better when it's eaten outdoors, in the lazy heat of summer, icy glass of Bandol rosé at hand, in all its smoky, charcoal-y glory. The Japanese have perfected it, so there should be no excuse. Seriously, everyone needs to try yakitori once in their lives. Grilled chicken liver is just waves and waves of pleasure in your mouth.

This is the second year of me fiddling around with my charcoal grill, so I wanted to advance beyond fish and octopus and greens, to finally grilling beef. I had the most amazing cut of dry-aged rib steak, so I wanted to eat it with chimichurri. Authentic chimichurri, because a simple Google search on a recipe yields hundreds and hundreds of variations. We want to keep it real here. So, as the Argentineans do . . . garlic, parsley, onion, olive oil. All finely chopped, not slammed into a food processor, because real authenticity takes work, and we want to still readily identify each element. I think I may have gone overboard with the garlic a little, but it smelled (and tasted) divine.

It only got better with more time in the fridge. A blink of the eye, and it's almost the end of June. We're going to have to make the most of the July and August, because before you know it, it'll be time to put the grill into storage again. Here's to a summer of grilling!

DF

Monday, June 25, 2012

deep and recessed, in those dark, lonely places

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I've been dreaming about my grandfather lately. A lot. Pleasant dreams. I see him smiling, in his 60's, looking happy. But I wake up sad. It's all this pent up guilt or whatever coming up, this whole I could have done more, should have done more. And then this whole thing, this whole wine nonsense doesn't mean a goddamn thing because I didn't so much as cook for him once, or even share a drink.

We all have regrets, things that don't normally come up when we're busy in our daily routines. But I've been reflecting lately, particularly on what my next steps are, in my career and in my life. It's tragic that when I had the chance to be together with him, I was too young, too much of a child to appreciate it. And now where am I going to drink with him . . . over his tombstone?

These moments in time are fleeting and precious. I'm not going to get mine back, but if I could . . . all I want, all I really want, is to share a bottle of old Shaoxing wine, a plate of his favourite lake shrimps, and a chance for me to tell him how much he meant to me.

DF

Sunday, June 24, 2012

lazy, rainy Sunday

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It was a lazy day today. Still exhausted from a friend's birthday party last night. At least I didn't funnel a beer - I did get to taste a big, big, 2005 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon though. I woke up early today - we're speaking relatively here - at 11 am. A quick lunch, then out to the driving range. We haven't done that in years. And we struggled like it. But it's all good, because on a real course, we'll all eventually . . . eventually we'll all get to the hole. Beers at Joey's (Shops at Don Mills), where we caught the last bit of the England/Italy game (4-2 Italy on penalty kicks), and for some reason when I got home, I decided I still needed to go for my Sunday run.

The sky was getting darker, but whatever, I'm hardcore like that. And then halfway through, it really started pouring. Soaked, but it was fun, running through a summer rain. My father picked up a few cans of beer, a Danish and German blond lager-style beer. Session beers, if that. Fizzy, unremarkable, homogenized brews that prove that the Europeans can aim for mediocrity in beer as well as North Americans.

Back to work tomorrow!

DF

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dream Team


The greatest team there will ever be . . . 11 (!) Hall of Famers, average margin of victory of 43.8 points, stats here. Start watching at 38:20 for the most epic scrimmage in history. Dream Team forever!!!!!

DF

Friday, June 22, 2012

getting so fancy

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Pocky is getting so fancy! I swear 20 years ago, they were nothing more than a children's snack. And now look at them, all growed up. They make these super skinny ones to swirl your coffee with, and even sea salt ones; getting all gastronomic with it, seasoning the sweet. I'm very impressed. Now all they have to do is to improve on the actual chocolate!

DF

Thursday, June 21, 2012

why we need to let wine age

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Two simple, otherwise unassuming bottles of right bank Bordeaux wines taught me an important lesson on why we need to put wine away, even if it's only for 3 or 4 years.

As part of this year's cellar move, I pulled out two bottles of 2006 St-Émilion to taste. Both were from the En Primeur order I placed in 2008, and completely head-scratching in that why/how did I decide to buy THESE wines??!! kind of way. But they're there now; surely no harm in having a taste. And while they weren't spectacular or exceptional, they were very good wines that more importantly, taught me a great lesson on why we need to age wines.

Both wines are primarily merlot, with a good amount of cabernet franc. And while North Americans think of Merlot as insipid, overly fruity wines with no structure, the wines from the merlot homeland of Bordeaux are anything but. The wines of St-Émilion and Pomerol have that degree of ripeness, but also a backbone, and more importantly balance that allow them to age for decades. And that achieve shockingly high prices. The alcohol levels in these wines seem to be steadily increasing annually, but at their best, these wines have a perfume that is unmatched.

And so we have a first look at a pair of 2006's. The wines were still youthful, but had shed that youthful exuberance, that out of control fruit and oak. Everything had started to settle down, and while one bottle was decidedly rustic after just pulling the cork, it had developed a great complexity by the next day. What struck me most was how aging had softened the tannins and created this wonderful velvety texture on the palate, like the wine was floating. Also striking was how pure the wines had become, how the fruit had become so sweet. Very satisfied to see how the wines were coming along, at 6 years of age. For one of them at least, I'm comfortable with putting away for another 10 years.

A great misconception about aging is that it somehow will make the wine better. And that's one of the harder things for a wino to have to explain. Because a wine is not, and can never be described as better than another wine, in the same way that a person cannot be described as better than another. Aging simply changes the wine, and helps it reach its potential. All the parts need time and patience to integrate, to fully become one with itself, as cheeseball as that sounds. And I'm now thoroughly convinced that the only way to understand and appreciate a wine is to allow it some time to grow up.

DF

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

they must at least be cousins

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2009 Château Belle-Vue | AC Haut-Médoc

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2005 Coto de Imaz Reserva | DOCa Rioja

I began drinking Rioja fairly early for I think 2 reasons: they offered great value for a poor university student, and they were one of the few chances to taste old(er) wines. We had a lot of fun with these wines. A couple of them came in half bottles; I, of course, was just a novice wino back then, and the smaller bottles let me indulge without going over budget, and tolerance. What is it though, about Bordeaux and Rioja that just seem so similar? Is it the (sometimes heavy) oak treatment? The relative ripeness that modern vintages seem to produce? I still get excited drinking these wines. Like an old mentor, you can't forget the wines that helped you develop your palate.

We started receiving our 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur orders earlier this month, and I pulled out this bottle to taste - Belle-Vue, a cru Bourgeois from the Haut-Médoc. I've always liked this wine, sort of a classic throwback claret that always shows off vintage character well. Lots of petit verdot in the blend, and interestingly, a large percentage of the barrels used aren't French oak; they're Hungarian. The property lies on the boundaries between the Haut-Médoc and Margaux appellations. The three R's here: ripe, round, and rustic. Needs time, but I think this is going to be a delicious wine in a few years. The Coto de Imaz, what I think of as one of the great traditionalists of Rioja. I tasted the 1985 and 2004 a few years ago - the 1985 in particular was one of the greatest wine experiences I ever had. This 2005 Reserva is fabulous, all minerals and freshness, with that slight creaminess of the oak coming up. Finely structured, and you know this is something which will be fabulous in 10 years.

All I want to drink are honest and true wines. Interesting things that sing unabashedly of their heritage, and what they truly are. Two wines, one French, one Spanish, but brothers in spirit.

DF

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yoku Moku biscuits with coffee

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These guys really know how to take something quite ordinary, and tweak it until it becomes extraordinary. The Japanese really do go for perfection in everything they do - no hyperbole required.

I don't have great eating habits; specifically, I don't like to eat breakfast. It's probably because I only eat when I feel like it, but I do tend to eat lightly in the morning, gradually progressing during the day to a very heavy dinner. Terrible, I know. I'm perfectly happy with nothing more than strong coffee and fried eggs, or some kind of bread and olive oil in the morning.

But these biscuits are all kinds of awesome.

All butter and sugar; is that why they're so good!? Perfectly sweet without going overboard, and just an amazing crumbly texture in the mouth. Yoku Moku has this thing where they label everything in French. My favourite was the roll labeled 'cigare'. And yeah, I totally pretended I was smoking. If this was on the table, I'd have breakfast everyday. Yet another win for Japanese pastries.

DF

Monday, June 18, 2012

beer food by Japan

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Man, this was my first introduction to Japanese food, these little snack packets Japanese men eat with their beer. It's the strangest thing - sort of like Japanese junk food for those who want to drink, but don't want a meal alongside. They're salty, savoury, and even a bit fishy, with those little dried fishes. Beats greasy chips any day, even though I sometimes wonder what they're actually made out of.

What do you drink beer with?

DF

Sunday, June 17, 2012

the perfect summer day

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I had a near perfect day yesterday. It was hot but breezy, good amount of cloud cover. Just feeling a bit tired, so sat outside in the backyard, feet up with a few glasses and 2 bottles of 2006 St-Émilion I was tasting. And I finally got the chance to really get into some issues of Decanter magazine I never got around to reading.

For 2 hours at least, all was good.

DF

Saturday, June 16, 2012

it's only too hoppy if you get a nosebleed

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Trafalgar Brewing India Ink Black Pale Ale | Oakville | Ontario

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Amsterdam Brewing Company Boneshaker India Pale Ale | Toronto | Ontario

I enjoy beer, I really do. It all goes back to drinkability, this whole idea of adults treating alcoholic drinks as thirst-quenchers. Personally, my decisions around what wine to buy and drink revolve around the food I want to eat. That sort of thought process applies less to beer drinking. In the case of these specific beer (styles), food almost should never play a role, because these extreme New World IPA's are so aggressive in their hop profile that they obliterate anything else you put in your mouth. It's great to see the spirit of innovation and experimentation shown by this new wave of North American brewers, but at the same time, I think there's still something to said about balance, and a more humble sensibility.

Are hop-bomb beers drinkable? Can brewers go a bit too hard towards that bitter extreme? There's no doubt that watery, mass-produced plonk (Budweiser, Molson, Coor's, etc.) is an inexcusable choice for anyone professing to enjoy beer - there's simply no reason good enough for proper beer drinkers to be drinking tasteless, characterless beers, not with all the fabulous craft beers now available. But I can't help but feel that these extreme, hop-forward beers try to go for the knockout punch and forget what makes beer so wonderful in the first place.

In the Middle Ages, a Belgian monk was venerated for advising villagers to drink beer instead of water, as a safer alternative to ward off disease. We can't forget that beer is meant to be, first and foremost, refreshing. These two beers, very much like those wines that try to knock your head off are anything but drinkable. Well made, certainly - impressive even, but when/with what do you drink them? People say spicy food works with these IPA's, but the fact that they're so bitter makes the heat even worse. Savoury? Not a chance against such bitterness. On its own? Still, simply just too hoppy.

The Trafalgar India Ink is interesting - an IPA that thinks it's a stout. Why not just be a proper stout? The Amsterdam Boneshaker, such an appropriate name. Both these beers have such high alcohols that they almost seem like a novelty . . . you have a taste with some friends, just to marvel at how hoppy and alcoholic a beer can be, and then open some proper drinking beers for dinner. And beers are not supposed to be for tasting instead of guzzling, because if any drink is supposed to be unstuffy and for the people, it's beer.

It's all about drinkability. Knockouts are fun to watch for the uninitiated, but the real boxing fan appreciates the footwork, the hand speed, the methodical round by round beatdown. It's such an American thing, but this trend of let's see how hoppy we can get this beer too shall pass.

DF

Friday, June 15, 2012

learning the Tom Collins

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The Chinese refer to any alcoholic drink as 酒 (jiu), which is sort of a catch-all word we use for beer (啤酒), wine (葡萄酒), or spirits (白酒). And my culture doesn't believe in the wine connoisseur. No, you're either a wine drinker or not, and if you are, well, it's not something to broadcast to friends and family. There's still this odd stigma around drinking - it's considered something for the middle-aged, and certainly not something to consider making a career out of. I've never cared for that kind of opinion, but it's just a bit jarring to hear an aunt still warning me to stay away from bars; you shouldn't be drinking at your age.

I'm a wino, as ferocious of one as you'll ever find, so of course I want to learn how to do everything alcohol related. Cocktails are hardly part of the repertoire, but a well-balanced, icy cold drink in the heat of summer is pure, mind-melting pleasure. Mojitos are a go-to drink in my house, but now that I've finally gotten my hands on a Boston shaker, I want to learn the Tom Collins. Equal parts fresh lemon juice and simply syrup, a healthy shot of Tanqueray gin, all into a shaker topped with ice.

And then you shake the fuck out of it.

Into a highball glass filled with ice, topped with sparkling water. You get that sour, that sweet, that beautiful herbaceous character of the gin. And I suddenly realized how useful and absolutely breathtaking these simple, classic cocktails can be. I've stopped pretending a long time ago that I should be ashamed of my drinking. How can you profess a love for wine and not admit that yes, you like to drink? I have no shame about it, no second thoughts; I'm a wino, following in the footsteps of the best and truest winos before me.

DF

Thursday, June 14, 2012

putting away a few more bottles

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Early summer marks that special time of year when Bordeaux En Primeur orders start arriving, Toronto begins to start seeing 30° weather, and my closet begins to get crowded from a year's worth of new bottles to put away. So we need to make another trip to a dear family friend's, to whom I'm ever so grateful for providing me with a safe, perfect place to store my babies. This year's trip was going to be a bit special, because I had made up my mind that it was time to pull a number of bottles out and finally start drinking my cellar. Otherwise, it'd just be hoarding.

I opened the door and realized two horrifying truths: I buy far too much, and drink far too little.

It's collector's syndrome. You just end up buying and buying, always saying no, it's not ready to drink yet. My collection is tiny, but people always seem surprised when I say I fully intend to drink every last bottle. Just some patience required, is all. I'm not interested in making sure that the wine I age gets better - what you do want to make sure is that you give the appropriate amount of time for a wine to really settle into itself, and realize its potential. It's such a disappointment when a wine turns out flawed . . . sometimes it's a greater one when you know the wine has so much more to give.

But what am I saying - there are bottles and bottles of stuff in here that should be pulled and drunk. So that's what I did. Some Bandol, some Rioja, a bunch of Niagara rieslings. Mosel and Rheingau too, and a few bottles of Bordeaux. Time to start drinking. It's going to be a great summer!

DF

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

get the fire going...it's time to grill!!!

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We finally, finally, finally, kicked off grilling season last weekend. It was epic and so satisfying. Lobsters and shit, but the star was the most amazing t-bone steak I picked up from Pusateri's. They dry age their beef, and really, they're no more expensive by the pound than Costco. And a million fucking times better. I don't normally care for these how-to articles, but Serious Eats posted an absolutely fantastic piece on how to grill steaks. You season a few hours beforehand - that's the key. Just sea salt, no pepper, and I marinated with this amazing single varietal olive oil and fresh thyme. Then when you grill, you place it off the heat first, to brown all the sides. You finish it off by searing directly on the charcoal, giving it the most stunning crust. Baste with butter, rest, and slice - I was in fucking beef paradise. Perfectly medium rare, tender, with all the flavour and texture.

Righteous.

DF

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

a few things I've been drinking

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2009 Giacosa Fratelli Nebbiolo d'Alba | DOC Piedmont

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2009 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir | Oregon

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2010 First Press Chardonnay | Napa Valley

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2009 Caves De Gigondas Le Dit De La Clapassière Séguret | AC Côtes Du Rhône Villages

All I ever want to do is drink interesting things. I'm just a simple guy - no matter how long I've been a North American, I'm still an immigrant. And I'm ok with the fact that I'll have very limited opportunities to taste rare, great wines. My parents taught me the importance of financial planning from a very young age - the sort of spend a dollar like it's ten kind of idea. We're always saving you see . . . sometimes for no particular reason except to have money ready when things go to shit. New immigrants (from China at least) don't go through that thought process, but for those of us who came over in the late 80's, it's a deeply ingrained habit that you save, save, save. It must be nice to be new immigrants, living off your parents money, doing fuck all. We know a lot of people who've sent their kids over to North America to do 'school' - heavy sarcasm, deep eye-roll - somehow equating success as getting married and having kids ASAP. What the fuck kind of world are we creating when spoiled, juvenile brats are having kids themselves before the age of 25? They go through the motions at school, barely get their degrees (if at all), and have no intention of getting proper jobs. They don't even need to raise their own kids, because of course, mom and dad will take care of living expenses and raise the kids for you, while you sleep until noon and hang out with your other rich, useless friends.

Useless people that's all it is. I sound increasingly bitter. This is because whenever I return to Shanghai, it's as if I'm the failure for not being married, not having a kid, not being able to buy my own house. Are you fucking kidding me? I don't want to be anything like you motherfuckers. If anything, I'll go out of my way to avoid turning into you, because there's no pride in gaining anything you haven't earned yourself.

All I want is to drink interesting things.

I've cut my wine budget significantly. I figure I'd rather drink a case of $13-20 bottles a month, than drink 2 or 3 bottles that fit the definition of what people think good wines are. Whatever the fuck that means. I'm cool with it. Because we all know Barolo is a fabulous wine - it'll be a great experience, but the knowledge you gain from it is incremental. It's the more obscure, humble wines that give a much more meaningful lesson. These are some of the wines I've been drinking recently.

So a downgrade from Barolo to a nebbiolo d'Alba, though from a very good, traditionally-minded producer. The Giacosa Fratelli, flawed as all hell with volatile acidity (comes off as sharp and vinegar-y, as well as used frying oil), but with considerable old country charm. Good nebbiolo character, ornery but give it some time - it proves that there's as much beauty in imperfection as there is in perfection. The A to Z pinot noir, admittedly a mistake . . . I had originally planned on picking up their chardonnay. I've never made that mistake before, but I could have sworn it looked lighter in colour when I bought it. A simple, clean, pure pinot noir. See what I was referring to, when I spoke about charm? These 'correct' wines simply reflect the bias of the winemakers, who are so terrified of anything un-sterile that they end up robbing much of the character of the wine. You can make clean, sterile wine anywhere. But character . . . ay, that's where so many producers take a stumble.

Napa Valley chardonnay fits a very specific profile. Do we really expect anything other than big, oaky, alcoholic wines from there? One does get the sense that they're dialing it back, at least compared to 10 years ago. Interestingly enough, you only get that really obvious, really fake kind of wine in the upper price ranges, the sort of wines Parker gives 95+ to. There's quite a bit of balance to be found in wines towards the lower end, which is why I had to taste the Wine Press Chardonnay. Moderate levels alcohol at about 13% abv and fresh with great balance. Creamy oak, but it's all offset by lots of lemon citrus aromas, great amounts of acid and extract. Some herbal aromas too, to keep it all interesting. A fabulous find, and because it says Napa on the label, people will think you balled out for it.

I haven't drunk Rhône wines in a long time. I'm reminded that these are some of the wines that first impacted me deeply, when I first started drinking. It just seems that (on the low end at least), these wines have become more homogenized in taste. They've been made higher in alchol, with more overripe, macerated fruit, and with softer textures. Almost the exact opposite of the Rhônes I first started drinking - those wines were massively structured and masculine, yet showing incredibly fresh, earthy aromas. Wild wines. This bottle, the Caves De Gigondas Le Dit De La Clapassière, from the village of Séguret, reminds me more of that traditional style. It has the ripe fruits and structure, yes, but also of that freshness good red wines need. There's also this great stemmy quality I associate with country wines.

I have a thing about non-conformists. We need to celebrate these wines, like we celebrate people who refuse to take the easy way. Just as noble and grand wines come from vines who struggle to survive, so do great people. I'll probably piss off a lot of people for writing this. But at least I know how to wipe my own ass.

All I want to do is drink interesting things.

DF

Monday, June 11, 2012

happy drunk on chardonnay

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2010 Sols & Sens Laudun Blanc | AC Côtes du Rhônes-Villages

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2009 Domaine Raphael Sallet | AC Mâcon Uchizy

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2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay | Wolff Vineyard | Edna Valley

We drank some interesting things. All sorts of shellfish, so I wanted to pour some heavier, more substantial white wines. Chardonnay drunk, simple bottles but oh so righteous. Prep took about 2 hours, and of course, you can't do it without a few glasses to keep you company. That white Rhônes, lovely viscous texture and all kinds of tropical. Good amount of alcohol too, leaving me more than a bit happy when I started cooking.

Mâcon Uchizy is just always reliable as a source of simple, expressive white Burgundy. This one is a better example, showing lots of structure and great extract on the palate - all at under 13% abv. The perfect wine to drink with oysters and clams. And then we got to the real surprise of the evening: a Californian chardonnay with style, class, and absolute charm. The Mount Eden Vineyards chardonnay pours a deep gold, with that obvious Cali character. Lots of creamy oak, ripe fruit. But give it some time, some air, and suddenly it shows a lot of minerality and freshness. Great amounts of acid on the palate, but still has that rich texture. Alcohol a bit high, but altogether, a beautiful wine.

Three bottles in, and a few after dinner Tom Collins', I got bombed out of my mind. So hungover I barely got out of bed the next day. But at least I didn't have to pray to the porcelain gods. Just a little château-ed, but when it's on good chardonnay - absolutely worth it!

DF

Sunday, June 10, 2012

happy drunk on seafood

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Weather warming up fast, so the weekend following my successful completion of the GMAT was the perfect last chance to get in as much shellfish as possible. Out to Diana's Seafood in the afternoon, to see what was on ice. Kumamoto oysters from Washington state, clams from British Columbia, and the most amazing sea scallops. Picked up a jar of trout roe as well, brilliantly orange and deliciously fishy. West coast striped prawns from our local fishmonger at Sunny to finish it all off. There's just something so pure and true about seafood, especially when you want to do these long, multi-course dinners. You almost don't need any significant seasoning, cooking times are short, and the pleasure of freshness gives it almost another dimension outside of taste and texture.

We were celebrating a few things - being done my exam, yes, but more importantly, making up for Mother's day. My cousin sent an email that weekend, with photos of this Italian restaurant he took my aunt. Thanks a lot bro. It's never the same when it comes a few weeks late. But being drunk on seafood is the best kind of drunk. And we drank some nice things too . . .

DF