Sunday, October 10, 2010

They Do Things Different In Wine World

99 bottles of beer, 60 bottles of Grenache, 200 bottles of Red, White & Whatever, 3 Fire Dancers, 1 pot of Gumbo from Zin Resturant, and a Beer Wench on the Roof.

That's the partial list of what I encountered at a recent Birthday Bash for William Allen (aka @SonomaWilliam) here in Wine World-- the mystical devils triangle of wine, food & people in Sonoma County, or SoCo as it’s affectionately known.

Back in the day, before I lived in Wine World and became acquainted with the wine blogging elite, dinner parties were a more somber affair. We’d dine, we’d talk directly to each other, actually look people in the eye as we conversed. When guests arrived a bottle of bubbles might be poured. Then with dinner an appropriate wine for the meal would be served. When that sole bottle was done, and if the meal was still in progress, the host might say-- “Should we open another bottle?” The guests would demure “Oh, I don't know. Well, maybe, but don't open it unless everyone wants more. Don’t open it just for me.”

How quaint! Perhaps those were the days to which Mr. Thoreau was speaking when he said--"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Maybe they were just waiting for the host to open another bottle. Ha!
Not anymore. Welcome to Wine World! Since moving to SoCo dinner parties, in fact all parties are an all out wine-o-rama. Ten dinner guests? Expect to see 30 bottles or more on the table. In SoCo the bottles seem to multiply faster than tribbles on the Star Ship Enterprise.
Things are different here.

Parties in Wine World are not drunk fests. (Well okay, actually some of them are, or I should say for some people they are) but the majority of the guests are just true oenophiles, so enthusiastic about a wine that they want to share it with you, and tell you all about it.
In reality, although there may be hundreds of bottles out at a party, not all are opened or even finished. Save for the really exceptional wines which are drained quickly. It’s like the salad bar. You taste a little of this, try a little of that, then maybe go back for some more bacon bits and skip the jello.

Add to all this the furious tweeting that goes on and you may find you spent half the night looking at your phone instead of the other guests. Unless of course there are fire dancers in attendance--then everybody is looking up at the show.
Often at these parties you'll find a few folks walking around with bottle held close to their chest, they’ll pull you aside and say- “Hey--You gotta try this.” A small amount is poured into your glass. You swirl, sniff, sip and nod your approval. Before you can thank them, they are off pulling aside someone else like some guy in Times Square clandestinely selling watches from the inside a trench coat.

Thankfully for my health and sanity, I don't attend too many of these bacchanal’s. But it always amazes me when I do. It’s made me re-think what wow-factor really is. After you attend one of these blow-out affairs with first rate food and fire dancers providing the entertainment, you realize your idea for Pony Rides and Happy Meals at your birthday party is just not going to cut it.
With some things it’s best to know you can’t compete.
C'est la vie' – That’s life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ridge Lytton Springs Wine Blogger Tasting III

This past Sunday Christopher Watkins, the Tasting Room Manager for Ridge Monte Bello, held a vertical tasting of Zinfandels from the Ridge Lytton Springs Library as well some select Cabernets from the vault at Ridge Monte Bello. This was an exceptional line up of wines and one might expect a formal setting and a hushed silence of reverence for the tasting. Instead it was serious amount of fun, a relaxed and casual day of tasting out on the crush pad at Ridge Lytton Springs. It was a scorcher the day we sat down to try the wines, but the crush pad stayed a cool 80 degrees in the shade. Hard to know if this temperature affected the wines on the palate, but I felt the heat made it slightly more difficult to capture the nose.

Chris assembled a terrific slate of writers and bloggers for the event and you can a find a full roster and links to the participant’s blogs here:

It’s great to sit with a group of enthusiasts to talk and tweet about wine on a high intellectual level. Okay, so that’s not exactly what happened at my end of the table. One thing about tweeting is that it makes initial interaction rather stunted. I was actually talking to Liza on twitter @BrixChix_Liza via tweets, even though she was sitting right next to me. Oh what a weird world we live in. Eventually we lifted our eyes off our phones and met our tablemates.

I had the pleasure of meeting David Tong and Richard Jennings among many others. Also in attendance was the notorious Ron Washam who pens The Hosemaster of Wine blog. Ron is an expert blogger baiter calling out the ridiculousness of bloggers and their antics in carefully crafted and parody filled prose, so I was expecting more of a general drubbing from him that day. But instead he merely threw out a few stale zingers and behaved himself for the most part. I think maybe it’s because the people at the table were serious about wine and serious about writing about it and sharing it with others, but for the most part don’t take themselves very seriously. So it’s hard to get your hooks into someone who agrees that what they do is not brain surgery for rocket scientists. Or some other fractured metaphor of false aggrandizement.

Maybe he was just caught up in the moment of sending his first tweet.

Oh dear, Ron tweeted, the world as we know it has ended. Anyway, enough about Ron, on to the wines.

The vintages we tasted included the Lytton Spring Zinfandels from 1987, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, & 2007.

The standouts for me included:
1992– Lavender notes and on the nose and good tannins
1993—A yeasty almost lemon cupcake-y scent with long finish. I was quoted as saying this made me want to have a cigarette and I don't even smoke.
2003—Interesting salty soy like quality. Umami as Chris says. Perhaps would make for a good sushi Zin.
2005—Hints of green pepper and fruit forward with a touch of grapefruit. Me likey very muchy.
2007—Full lush and worthy of an animal sacrifice on the BBQ.

We also tasted Cabernets from Ridge Monte Bello 1991, 1992 & 1994.
I thought all the Monte Bello Cabernets were complex and multi-faceted, but the 1994 had the perfect aligning of the planets for my palate.

We discussed foods that would pair well with the wines and came up with everything from tempura to guinea pig. We also theorized that if wine had been aboard the Apollo 11 moon launch they might never have left the capsule for the first moonwalk. Imagine what might have resulted. —
“That’s one small sip for Man and the rest of this Zinfandel from Monte Bello for Me. Huston, I’m staying here in the capsule and drinking this Monte Bello. It’s literally out of this world.”
How we got on to the subject of space travel is probably my fault, but that’s the fun of tasting. Everyone has a unique frame of reference to call upon in describing wine.

Here are a few screen shots of what others had to say:

You can search twitter for the hashtag #Ridgewines and read more of the tweets that where unleashed during the tasting.

Thanks to Christopher and also to Brandy Alexander (yes, her real name) for organizing and hosting the event.


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