Archive for May, 2011

Following the season(s)

It’s less than 30 hours until June and suffice it to say this spring has been confused and confusing.
Well, let’s say it anyway: Last time I walked outside, it was sunny and calm.
An hour before that, it was overcast, dust from Utah blowing in the west wind at 40 miles per and about 50 degrees.
Earlier today, it was snowing, temperature jumping from 35 to 45 and the wind laying trees down around town.
And real early this morning I was out in T-shirt and shorts, watering the lavendar I recently planted.
And, gee, tomorrow it’s forecast to be 75 and right back into summer.
It’s been like this all month, changing from spring to summer to winter to spring – no, winter, no, spring – all so fast it’s hard to keep the seasons straight.
Fortunately, my state has been missed by the truly impressive weather devastating parts of the Midwest and South.
While I follow the latest news on floods, tornadoes and other spring storms, I’m not unhappy to admit my biggest challenge has been trying to match my wine selections with the weather.
Is it spring? How about a crisp, floral Gavi from Vigne Regali, the winery owned by the Mariani family of Banfi Importers fame?
Gavi (actually it’s Cortese di Gavi from the Cortese grape) is a DOCG white wine from the Province of Allessandria in Italy’s Piemonte.
Mention Piemonte to most wine drinkers and they see red, as in Barolo (read what Tom Hyland has to say about the 2007 vintage) and Barbaresco, the critic-confounding wines from the better-know nebbiolo grape.
Nothing wrong with that, since there are many delightful Barolos, including the recently reviewed 2007 vintage.
But on hot summer nights, when the lightning bugs are chasing each other around the roses, I’ll take something white, light, and not too much alcohol.
Enter Gavi, often considered Italy’s premier white wine.
I’ve sampled some delightful Italian white wines in the last few months (Romagna’s Albana, for one) but this version of Gavi, with notes of apple and citrus and wonderfully crisp acidity, simply tastes like spring, even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
This charming version, the 2010 Principessa Gavia ($14 SRP but usually available for less, 12 percent abv) is perfect for sipping or light summer meals.
The Principessa also is available in a perlante style, which captures some of the final fermentation before being bottled (SRP $17).
Then, when the weather changes (note I said “when,” not “if”) back to winter, I change, too, to something burly enough to stand up to the elk stew warming in the ancient crockpot.
This afternoon, sometime between wind storms and rain/snow/sunshine, I dug up a 2006 St. Francis Pagani Vineyard Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel (SRP $45 but less to St. Francis wine club members).
Deep, rich and dark-fruity (is that a word?), with a nose of black fruit, chocolate and roses and so fruit deep that it’s 15.5 alcohol doesn’t overshadow the wine.
Actually, 15.5 percent might be considered moderate in these times when some Zins are running to 17-percent alcohol.
The St. Francis Pagani Vineyards (vines planted in the 1800s) spends 14 months in American oak which serves to add a spicy touch to the finished wine.
And heaven knows we could use some spice to warm things up when it’s snowing on May 30.

Categories: Uncategorized

Going to WAR for a great wine

With the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series hard upon us, it’s a fine time to look closer at what might be the most statistic-oriented sport in human history.

You want numbers? Thanks to the never-tiring endeavors of such stats-happy fans as writer Daniel Okrent, who is credited with inventing Rotisserie League Baseball, and baseball writer and historian Bill James, author of more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics, there are baseball metrics for every conceivable event.

Which left-handed pitchers allow more steals with two outs? Which batters tend to strike out with one man on and two outs?

Some of the more-obtuse (for non-baseball fans anyway,) include James’ “Runs Created,” which tries to quantify a player’s contribution to runs scored and his “Pythagorean Winning Percentage,” which explains the relationship of wins and losses to runs scored and runs allowed and a team’s actual winning percentage.

All of the numbers, of course, are there for one reason: to determine why teams win and lose (or is that two reasons?)

But then I saw the category “Wins Above Replacement” and thought, “Here’s something I can use.”

The 2003 Le Cigare Volant, an All-Star now with many years ahead of it.

The WAR metric can be explained (very simply) as considering a player’s total value and how much his team would be giving up if the player had to be replaced with a minor leaguer or someone off the bench.

Since this ostensibly is a column on wine and not baseball, we’ll tweak the WAR statistic to fit into your wine cellar.

During an Easter dinner, standing head and shoulders (literally) over the other wines on the table was a magnum of the 2003 Le Cigare Volant, the Rhone-style red from Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, one of California’s original Rhone Rangers.

The wine, whose name literally translated from the French means The Flying Cigar or The Flying Saucer, is considered Grahm’s tribute to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

According to several sources, the name derived from a 1954 ordinance adopted by Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers forbidding flying cigars/saucers from flying over the region.

Any transgressors, said the ordinance, would be confiscated. As far as known, the only flying saucer yet seen is the one on the wine’s label.

Le Cigare Volant traditionally (the first vintage was 1984) is a fruit-driven blend based on grenache, syrah and mourvedre, with smaller amounts of viognier, cinsault and carignane but 2003 was a bit of stylistic change for a wine Grahm has called Bonny Doon’s “spiritual center.”

In some winemaker’s notes, Grahm said, “We have upped the ante and given the wine a little more grip. I think that in doing so, we have enhanced this Cigare’s ability to age.”

This wine is a blend of 34 percent grenache, 33 percent Syrah, 27 percent mourvédre and 2 percent each of viognier, cinsault and carignane.

Here, though, the syrah and mourvedre are dominant with the grenache hanging back a bit.

We weren’t sure what we’d find on opening the bottle since some reviewers have given the 2003 a definite thumbs down but the large bottle disappeared well before dinner was served.

Eight years of not-great but decent cellaring produced a wine with soft tannins and lots of red-raspberry and dark cherry fruit along with the spicy tang of the syrah and the dark flavors of the mourvedre.

We wished we had one more bottle stashed away to open in another eight years.

Which brings up the wine’s WAR rating.

You can’t keep this wine in your cellar forever, but if you had two bottles, what would you lose by drinking the second right away?

Seriously, this wine was so good we would have popped the second, if it was available.

But that would mean losing (bad WAR rating) the future of this wine, which from the one bottle we had, seems quite promising.

Do you stutter and stammer and bring up a substitute from the cellar, all the while knowing there’s a All-Star in its prime begging for a chance to shine?

You could wait until that “Special Occasion” calls for a particularly impressive wine, and let that baby slam one out of the park.

Or you could play like the 1919 White Sox, shrug your shoulders and say, “I don’t know what happened.”

Maybe the solution is to check the bank account and make a big trade, putting another winner in your cellar.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks for notice but we’ve been here for a while

May 19, 2011 1 comment

In case you haven’t noticed, which likely means A: You’re not from western Colorado; B: you’re not interested in Colorado wine; or C: You’re a Republican (or all three), our Democratic ( that’s the big D democrat) Gov. John Hickenlooper recently tabbed June 5-11 as “Colorado Wine Week,” a welcome but obvious political panegyric to the initial Colorado Winefest set for June 11 at the former and much-redeveloped site of Stapleton Airport in Denver.

Gee, the sudden attention being paid to Colorado wine is great and oh-so welcome but where has (have) Hickenlooper (and other politicos) been for the last 20 years while the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade has been rocking the state’s wine world?

It’s not like the Colorado wine industry hasn’t been around for some 40 years (the first commercial winery was begun in 1968) or Colorado wine hasn’t been winning awards since those early years.

Or that there might not even be an ever-growing state wine industry if weren’t for the grape growers and winemakers in the state’s two (count ’em, two) American Viticultural Areas, both of which happen to be on the Western Slope.

Of course, we’re certainly not coarse enough to say bad things about the state’s top politician taking some time out of his busy schedule running for re-election to make an expected but as-yet-not-confirmed appearance in Palisade to repeat his nice remarks about the state wine industry.

Giving the Guv as much credit as he deserves, here are some of the encomia the Governor’s proclamation laid out at the feet of the Colorado wine industry:

– Colorado’s wine industry “has .. a well-deserved reputation for creating … premium quality wines;”

– The state’s wineries, “many small family-owned estates, produce award-winning wines often using locally grown grapes, fruit and honey;”

– And the state’s wine industry “provides jobs and adds value to our quality of life.”

Well, yes, we quite agree, don’t we?

And we hope the message gets out to everyone else who might wonder if there’s life west of the Eisenhower Tunnels on Interstate 70.

Just please, Gov. H., don’t take another 20 years to acknowledge there’s a whole bunch of great things happening in the state’s wine industry.

No sense in keeping this great secret to ourselves.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sleepless weekend for fruit growers

Sunday morning reading:
We expect late frosts here in western Colorado. It’s not really spring without the mutable weather giving us a thrill now and then, just to see who jumps first in response to possibly losing all of the (pick one or all) peach, cherry or grape crop.
I’d add apricots to the list but we so rarely get an apricot harvest because they bloom early and long-term (I suppose 30 years can be considered long term unless you’re a tree) weather data the historical last freeze around here occurs April 23.

Winter's last fling, April 30, 2011

As you can see, we had a bit of snow to greet us Saturday, the only snow of the month and just in time to catch fruit growers wondering when the first shoe would fall.
The second shoe fell early this morning when the low at my house dipped to 26 and around the valley you could hear the wind machines roar to life.
Such is the sleep-deprived life of a fruitgrower.
Royal nuptials: Susannah has an interesting post about watching the royal wedding (or is that Royal Wedding?) and thinking of British sparkling wine, which apparently can be quite good.
I guess in an historical situation such as this, I’d forgo any thoughts of nationalism and go with Champagne, which is what reports said the Palace served for the occasion.
Sabering the bubbly: Alfonso Cevola, aka The Italian Wine Guy, has a fine post about his latest adventure in the Texas wine and fine food scene. Among the great photos are a series of Claudine Pepin sabering a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, one of the event sponsors (and probably why someone had a bottle of Champagne to play with.)
BTW: The Wikipedia site on Veuve Clicquot has a fascinating picture of the formidable Madame Clicquot herself, who according to one source didn’t drink. I read this somewhere and in a weak moment failed to note where it was. I’ll get back to you on that.
Anyway, seeing the photos of Claudine Pepin saber the bottle reminded me of the several times I’ve watched her do the same during her presentation (with her father, the immensely talented and popular Jacques Pepin) at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen.
Claudine does this in-stage, indoors, and insists there’s a) little danger; b) it’s easy to do once you’ve determined the weak seam in every bottle; and c) if you keep the blade moving along the bottle neck.
The glass shards are forced out of the bottle by the pressurized Champagne rushing out from inside.
You could try it, if you feel daring. If you don’t have a saber lying around the house, any long-bladed, hefty knife will do.
For all you DFYers, here is an interesting piece on YouTube.
Notice the erudite and educational clues the video provides, such as “never saber while intoxicated.”
Maybe start with a $7 Spanish Cava, though, instead of a $130 Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame.
Hey, how else will you find out about these things?
And speaking of the F&W Classic, this year’s event runs June 17-19. The basic consumer ticket is $1,185 for events, seminars, demos and the various Grand Tastings.
Info at the website above.

Categories: Uncategorized