Friday, June 26, 2009

The Sake Experience

This months Wine Bloggers Wednesday assignment, the Sake Challenge, was posed by Richard Auffery (@RichardPF)

For many years I thought of sake as something to avoid. I’d only had it hot and in my experience it was worse than drinking dishwater straight out of the dishwasher. Not my favorite kind of flavor profile.

But the first time I really got a sense of the realm of Sake was at the now closed Grasshopper in the Rockridge area of Berkeley. They offered sake flights and it was a great way to contrast and compare them. I learned that Sake can range in flavor from super sweet to very dry. They also range in price and some can be very expensive. Most sake is clear but some are unfiltered (nigori) and look cloudy. I don't like drinking cloudy stuff. (think Horchata for example) So I stayed away from the unfitered style.

My tastes run towards clear, ultra fragrant, pricey and dry. Like Yumedono, a Junmai /Daigino style sake that is closer to a fine white wine experience than sake. Even though it is technically a wine made of rice, I tend to think of wine as something that comes from grapes.

One of my favorite “go –to” sakes is Hasumago (first grandchild). It's fragrant and dry and it goes well with all types of food. It's a good choice when you have a long list of selections and not sure what to order.

For this WBW segment I tried two "new-to-me" sakes.

First I tried Kurosawa Kimoto. I ordered it because I like Kurosawa movies and the style --junmai-- sounded like "Jambi" the genie from Pee Wees Playhouse. Anyway TV and movie references aside, I found this sake easy to drink with a light citrus fragrance and a smooth lemony juniper flavor. It paired well with Yakitori.

I also tried Onikoroshi, a Daiginjo style that was also dry and delicate but more floral than fruity in fragrance. This sake tasted more interesting to me with a fuller flavor and more acidity. It also seemed much stronger than the Kurosowa Kimoto, but that may just have been a function of timing and volume, since I drank it after the Kurosowa and more of it.

This was a fun little assignment and I learned more than expected. The world of Sake certainly deserves more research on my part. But if you're looking for something new to drink, give sake a try. I'm sure you'll find one with your name on it.

Arigato and Syornaya

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ode to Dad on Father's Day

My Dad was not really a wine drinker per se, but he taught me the finer points of scotch and how to make a great whiskey sour.

After I moved to California my Dad called me every morning around 7am just for a quick hello, or to tell me something funny and to say he loved me. The calls rarely lasted more than 65 seconds.
Then one morning I got a call and he said, “If anything ever happens to me I want you to know I love you very much.” “I know Dad,” I said. “I love you too.”

A few hours later my Mom called to say my Dad had had a stroke. He was only 67.

Weather the stroke was caused by stress, smoking, or years of living with my mother is up to debate. (Mom was quite a character.)

My dad did not live to see the Internet age fully realized. But he would have loved email and even more than that he would have loved Twitter--Quick, Sharp, and to the point. Just like my Dad.

My dad was the coolest guy in the world. He was fun and smart with a wit so sharp it could draw blood. Things were never dull or boring when my dad was around. He could turn the most mundane tasks or experiences into laugh-a-thons.

When I was twelve I went on a whirlwind tour of Europe with my parents and my fondest memories are about my Dad and how much we laughed on that trip. At a tiny hotel in Genoa we found a violin had been left behind in the room and my Dad took it down to the front desk where by some crazy translation misunderstanding they thought he wanted to perform for them. So he gave me a wink and he took the thing out of it’s case and gave it a go. And as he was coaxing the most god awful and tortuous sounds from the instrument, the actual owner walked in to see if his violin had turned up.  Suffice to say the looks exchanged all around were priceless. We checked out shortly thereafter.

I have so many memories and stories about my Dad I could fill volumes. I should start a regular feature and add a piece about my Dad each month. He certainly deserves it.

Happy Fathers Day Dad, and wherever you are, I know everyone is in stitches. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pairing Nuts with Wine

Why I’m compelled to share this story all over again I don’t know, but it still makes me laugh every time I think about it and since it is concert and picnic season at many wineries, I thought it might be fitting.

Several years ago I went see Diana Krall at an outdoor concert series at a winery that shall remain nameless. Anyway, before the show, along with several wines, there was a huge dinner buffet with lots of fancy food set up under white canopies. A guy in line in front of me was going crazy piling stuff on his plate as if he'd just been released from prison or something.  At one food station there were all kinds of salads and a huge bowl of candied caramelized pecans, almonds, and walnuts that were piping hot. And the guy says "Oh man, I love hot nuts!" and mounds them on his plate. And I'm thinking—this guy really needs to pace himself—there was lots of food yet to come.

At the end of the buffet line there were chicken breasts and prime rib and ratatouille and garlic mashed potatoes. The woman behind the chafing dish of mashed potatoes says to the guy--"Could you push your nuts aside for me or you want me to put the mashed potatoes right on them?" So this of course this sets me into giggles. And the guy says "Oh just put the mashed potatoes right on my nuts, it'll keep 'em hot."  At that point I lost it completely and doubled over laughing, and in the process I dropped my ratatouille on his flip-flops, which made me laugh even harder and I fell to the ground gasping for breath with tears streaming down my face and that prompted the mashed potato lady to call security because she thought I was having a seizure.

When the EMT and security folks arrived all I could do was bleat out the words "nuts" "hot nuts" between gasps for breath, and that made the medic think I was having a nut related allergic reaction and he pulled out a needle to give me a shot of god knows what. The sight of the needle sobered me up quick and I finally pulled it together long enough to explain that I was just laughing because the guy said "keep my nuts hot" and they all looked at me with expressions of such utter disgust that I felt like a pathetic creature acting out some absurd Beavis and Butthead moment. Then after much deliberation they decided I was not a threat to myself, or others, and they let me go.

The moral of it all: Nuts and wine do NOT pair well together. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Experiment with Wine and Music

Wine Blogging Wednesday #58

Little late to the proverbial table on this, but figure I'd give it a go anyway.
For my non-wine followers this post is in response to a Wine Blogging Wednesday assignment, or challenge rather, that asks bloggers to respond to various topics or themes regarding wine. This challenge, issued by Kate of Gonzo Gastronomy, asks that bloggers experiment with wine and music. Specifically the task is to taste a wine or two and  notice how or if the different music changes your experience of the wine.

Okay I can do that. Got wine. Got music. Lets give it a go.

I put the ipod on random and opened a bottle of Quivira Grenache Rose 2008 because it seemed like a fun little wine for this assignment. It had a pale pink color that reminded me of the inside of a sea shell and a scent of strawberries and melon and a bit of Gramma's dusting powder.

First up on the ipod was "Baba O'Riely" by the Who which was kind of a nice accompaniment with all that trilling in the beginning  followed by the big chords. The wine drank quite nice to the Who at first. But as the song progressed it got a bit complex for this nice light wine. Epic ballads and light Rose don't seem to be a good pairing. Not a Rose wasteland I guess.

Next on the ipod was Chris Isaak "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing". The steady bass line on this song actually made the wine feel more robust than before. Odd. 

Next up was "White Punks on Dope" by the Tubes. Good Grief! This is not a good pairing for Rose! Perhaps a baby's arm holding an apple and a bottle of Rose, but this music did not enhance the Rose in any way. Well, maybe the acidity did amp up a bit.

"Bella" by Jovonotti. Hey this works. Jovonotti is an Italian pop singer who is huge in Italy and "Bella" is the perfect light bouncy melody for this wine. It actually tastes lighter and more fruity as I listen to the Jovonotti. Interesting.

Second glass. 
Neil Young- "Cinnamon Girl". Well everything goes well with Neil Young. 

King Crimson -"I Talk to the Wind". Jeeze this is too down tempo. One glass away from full on depression. Cue next song.

Ramones- "The KKK Took My Baby Away". Almost hit move to next song, but hung in there with it. Result: this heart wrenching song was too brusque for Rose.

Last song- Paolo Conte, Via Con Me. Another Italian singer in the mix, and no surprise goes well with Rose. This song is jazzy and up tempo and makes the wine taste light and bouncy too. Perfecto!

Results and impressions- Italian pop and Rose are a good match and made the wine taste lighter and sweeter. Heavy Rock ballads, not so much.

Well that was certainly fun. I recommend you try this experiment yourself and see if you don't find that every song is perfect by the end of the bottle.



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