Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reinventing the Past

Are we hard-wired to remember tragic events over the good? It seems that way. Maybe it's just me. Sure, I’ve had peak high days of utter joy but they don’t have the same razor sharp clarity as the bad events. It’s as if the emotional muscle memory can't let go. Those moments in time that just hang there like fossils preserved in Lucite. The words etched in your memory: Dad died.  Your brother is dead.  Mom is gone. There is no turning back certain days, or pressing delete on the calls that defined them. 

So today, in honor of my brother, I'm starting a new tradition to change the energy around this tragic milestone. I’ve decided to turn it into a mini celebration and try to access the joy division of his life. 

Lucky for me Traverso’s  the Italian Deli in Santa Rosa is having a moving sale so I was able to get all the “ode to a good life” supplies at 25% off. 

Since my family background is Italian I thought it fitting to do this with an Italian theme. I love Traverso’s; the array of Italian products, the special cheeses and meats remind me of my childhood, but without all the angst and screaming. (Hey, Italians can be a bit overwrought you know.) But food and wine makes it all better. 

I filled my cart with items to create a classic Italian antipasti spread. Along with some cheese from the Dolomites and salami, I got Filetti di Acciughe--Anchovies with capers, Flott Tuna (the worlds' greatest tuna IMO), and a few different types of Sicilian CaponataCaponota is a Sicilian dish made of eggplant and olives and capers, tomatoes, celery, peppers and vinegar and it’s just the most fantastic thing in the world. It’s my go to de-stress food. The food I find most comfort in. It’s like Italian Valium to me. My Mother and Grandmother were master caponata makers. Once we spent the whole day making enormous vats of it for me to take back to school and in the process burned out the element on my mom’s electric stove. I went back to school with three huge jars and hid them from my roommates. It's not that I'm not into sharing, but this stuff was like high grade smack and equally addictive. I did not want to be responsible for creating any new caponota addicts with my antipasto gateway drug.  

In the wine department I found two of my favorite wines from Sardegna the Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino and the Argiolas Costera made of Cannonau grapes which I recently discovered is the same grape as Grenache. These wines are easy drinkers and a great value at under $20. I’ve been drinking these wines for years but I noticed they have been sort of discovered lately and I even saw the Vermentino was mentioned in Wine Spectator, so the price has been creeping up. I also grabbed bottle of Cinque Terre Vendemmia a very delicate dry white wine that I have never seen outside of the Cinque Terre. Probably with good reason as I don’t think this wine travels all that well. But what the heck, it's most excellent paired with something like Acchugie with capers. So I got a bottle of that too. 

Tonight I as I lay out this Traverso repast, I'll raise a glass to my brother and try to hold on to the better memories now and in the future. –Ciao ciao

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home School Tuesdays

In our quest to learn more about the wines & wineries in our area I set aside Tuesday afternoons to go tasting and explore the region. I call it "Home School Tuesday" and think of it as a kind of improvised field trip to illuminate and educate ourselves on what's out there and what we like. It's completely unscientific, I just pick wineries at random or else select ones I've read about. 

Last week we went to Dutton Estate and Iron Horse. Today we visited Merry Edwards and Hanna. I always wanted to stop in at Merry Edwards because of their David Lance Goines wine labels. The tasting areas were like individual conference rooms and it sort of felt like going on a job interview, but without the exchange of business cards and discussion of career goals.

We tasted their Pinots and the highly rated Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc. I would have bought the wine for the label alone, but the wine was equally well designed so got a bottle for some "extra credit" work at home.

Next we went to Hanna and tried some Chardonnay  Pinot Noir,  Cabernet  a nice Rose and the Bismark Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel.  I normally don't buy wine above the $35 price point. My goal is always to find the best wine for my palate (and purse) for under $20. But we ended up buying the $52.00 Zinfandel. It was just irresistible. Luckily it turned out that if you have a Visa Signature credit card you get a 15% discount! I didn't even know I had a Signature Visa card till I looked at it so that was a nice bonus. 

Apparently Visa has set up this promotion with about 60 wineries where you can get the tasting fee waived and discounts on wines purchased in the tasting rooms. So take out your card and see if it says Visa Signature on it. It's a pretty nice deal.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In Real Life

Since moving to Sonoma County three months ago I have toiled to embrace the wine country lifestyle and all it has to offer. And if that means dining at phenomenal restaurants and visiting world-class wineries, so be it. I’m also enjoying the astounding bounty of locally grown and produced comestibles. (A fancy word for stuff you eat-- not blow up.)  Anyway my friend James O'Reilly of Travelers Tales had been urging me to join Twitter since it launched. He also encouraged me to join Second Life way back when, so naturally I was dubious about what possible value this new media time suck might offer. (BTW: I'm not adverse to new technologies. I’ve worked in Tech for years and was involved with the launch of Travelocity and Opentable. I also worked on Netopia Virtual Office with GeoCities. Not sure if those last two even exist anymore.) But I finally caved in and joined Twitter at the end of 2008.

Recently I decided to go beyond the fourth wall of cyberspace and attend a real live twitter event. This was not your random tweet up kind of thing with crap pizza. This was a fully fleshed out extravaganza. The event was sponsored by Twitter Taste Live and Hospice du Rhone and hosted at ESTATE by Sondra Bernstein. The point is to meet in person to taste wines that are simultaneously tasted by others attending virtually via twitter. A big part of the event is the live feed of tweets that scroll out on a big screen. Unfortunately the day of the event was also the day Oprah joined twitter so there were all sorts of connection problems. Nonetheless, the event far exceeded my expectations. The people and the wines were exceptional.

Tablemates at the pre-taste dinner included Paige Granback and Chuck Hayward of the Jug Shop in San Francisco, Wine Marketer John Corcoran and Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards. And all through the meal I kept having the deja-vu-y feeling that I'd previously met all these delightful and interesting characters. The next day, I realized why they all seemed so familiar. A month earlier I’d read Red, White, And Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean so in effect, I had already met them through the pages of her book.

I was mostly unfamiliar with Rhone wines-- the bulk of my experience is with the wines of Italy-- but I was a convert by the end of the evening.

I also got to meet some of the players in the Wine Twitter space like @sonadora, @winebratsf and @sharayray among others. And oh yeah, did I mention I won the door prize? Yup real life has it’s perks. 

So thank you to James for getting me on the twitter path and thank you to real life for delivering more than promised in the demo.  


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