Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wine Book Round-Up

Next to wine and travel, my biggest obsession is reading, and wine related books are always in my "to read" stack. Over the last several months I received a variety books for review and a few I purchased myself. Here is a synopsis of what I've been reading.

Even though I live in California Wine country, there's always a new winery to discover or a legendary one to learn more about. The Finest Wines of California offers an imitate portrait of the authors favorite wines and the people who make them. I like books like this because unlike a complete listing guide, this is a highly personal and edited selection that hones in on the best, or in this case the finest, wines currently being produced in each region. Point Rating: 98

Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise--

Reading Between the Wines is an odyssey thru the authors career as a wine importer and his musings on the enigma of wine. It's more memoir than wine commentary, but for the most part it works--think "My Dinner with Andre" wherein you, the reader, become Wally Shawn to Terry's version of Andre. Except Terry drinks better wine than Andre.

I liked this book for it's writerly approach to the topic of wine, although it did get a bit squirrelly with tangential digressions in places. Some sensory descriptors were rather over the top-- like the line on page 163, describing a Beaune Bressandes, 1969, in which Theise attempts to anthropomorphize a truffle and writes-- "If truffles had orgasms, they might emit this fragrance. Soy, sandlewood, shiitake, you know: Burgundy."

Hey, I'm all for a gripping essence of the moment descriptor and I understand the overwhelming emotion that can take hold of you in the presence of a great Burgundy. (I once described a Burgundy as having the scent of a warm puppy belly.) But truffle sex? Pass the bong Terry. Nevertheless, I think if ever there was a perfect book to read along with a great glass of wine--this is it. Point Rating: 96

The New Connoisseur's Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries by Charles Olken and Joseph Furstenthal--

The New Connoisseur's Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries offers a compendium of the wines and wine regions in California. It makes a great reference book as well as an ad hoc travel guide. I love the organization and layout of this book and the detailed maps. Along with a brief history of California winemaking, grapes and winery listings, the book includes sections about the geography and climate of various regions that I found the most interesting and useful. Point Rating: 95

The Wild Vine by Todd Kilman--

Written in a plodding pseudo-suspense style, I found The Wild Vine hard to get through, but was propelled to carry on out of sheer morbid curiosity to see if anything would actually transpire by the end. There was much factual information on Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to establishing wine in Virginia, but an entire book on the Norton grape is a difficult subject with which to keep a readers attention. I enjoyed the history and background information on the evolution of Virginia as a wine region, but the story of Jenni nee Michael Marsh, the transexual winemaker at Chrysalis that was threaded through the narrative, seemed melodramatic and oddly superfluous to the subject at hand. Point Rating: 75

Point Scale Breakdown:
100-95 -- Read it now.
94-90 -- Worth your time.
89-85 -- Nothing on TV.
84-75 -- Mow the lawn.

Charity Begins with a Corkscrew

I always love a good story behind a wine and Charity Case Wines has a great one. The Charity Case Foundation, founded by a group of Napa winemakers, provides an outlet for winemakers to participate in charitable activities by doing what they do best--making wine. Vintners in the program donate excess juice to create wines bottled under the Charity Case label with all net proceeds donated to Napa county charities.

I received samples of the 2008 Charity Case Rosé Napa Valley and the 2009 Charity Case Sauvignon Blanc both from Napa Valley.

I had planned to share these wine with guests as I usually do with samples to get the opinions of others, but we ended up trying them one night after a power failure left us with few options for dinner. We improvised with what was on hand in our dark fridge and enjoyed the wines with some pretzels and hummus and olive tapenade. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé paired surprisingly well with the minimal feast of salty and sweet. In fact the Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect paring with all three items while the Rosé seemed best with the hummus.

I think making wine for a charitable cause is a great idea and Charity Case is not only charitable to the recipients of it's foundation, it's also most charitable to the palate of the wine drinker. If you would like to try some Charity Case Wine, (and you really should), you can find ordering information here.

Cheers to Charity Case and all their volunteers who support this worthy endeavor.

Monday, April 11, 2011

5 Easy Steps for a Great Birthday in Portugal

If you are lucky enough to be in Portugal for your birthday as I was, here is all you need to do for a perfect day:

Step 1. Wake up at Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora Do Carmo and party in the cellar!

Quinta Nova Cellar Party Posse

Step 2. Have lunch at Quinta do Panascal

Yes, there was food in between each of these wines too...

Step 3. Check in at Quinta do Pego

View of Douro from Quinta do Pego
Complimentary in room Port

Step 4. Party on into the night at Quinta do Pego: Drink great port, make celebratory toasts, and eat cake with new friends.

Birthday girl with Carlos Filipe Jesus of Quinta do Pego

Check out that cake!

What pairs with Birthday cake? -Everything!
Quinto do Pego Port tasting took place prior to the birthday party

"99 bottles of Port on the wall...99 bottles of Port...Take one down, pass it around..."

Step 5. Repeat step number four above at least 45 times.

Stayed tuned... last few posts in the Portugal Series coming up next.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Portugal Part 7: Foodie Feast at Rui Paula's DOC on the Douro

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Portugal was the cuisine, both rustic and haute. And hardcore foodies will find a plethora of places to make them happy in Portugal. During the Wine Pleasures tour we were treated to dishes featuring the best local ingredients inventively presented. One of the most impressive meals by far was the eight course, ten wine lunch at DOC, one of the top rated restaurants in Portugal under the direction of Chef Rui Paula.

DOC is perched on a pier above the Douro river with expansive views from every seat in the house. But trust me you won't be looking at the view if you dine there, all your attention will be riveted to your plate.

Filipe José Carvalho, Lara Dunston, Me

Ms. Dunston pictured above is an experienced professional, a Goddess of Perpetual Indulgence, able to clean every plate and empty every glass placed before her. Here she smiles, and offers to school me in her ways.

My pictures were taken with my phone camera so not the best representation of the artistry of the dishes. But you can visit GranTourismoTravels for some excellent photos of this meal.

First up: A flatbread with a foam of parmesan vegetable cream in a shot glass. Wine: Alvarinho Vinho Verde

2nd: Pomegranate & octopus carpaccio salad. Wine: Rose Quinta da Revolta

3rd: Blood sausage on olive oil cake with a red wine reduction

4th: Sea Bass with wild rice and asparagus. Wine: Atalya Branco

5th: Bisaro Pork Neck slow cooked for 12 hours at 72 degrees celsius with a chestnut reduction. Wine: Rui Paula Grande Reserva

6th: Emulsion of Mango and Strawberry

7th: Apple and almond Gratin cake with honey apple, cinnamon vanilla ice cream. Wine: Rozes 10 year Tawny

8th: Goat Cheese Samosa with Honey and Cottage cheese ice cream and Pumpkin jelly. Wine: Ruby Niepoort Port

I gave Lara's complete indulgence approach my best shot, but I was no match for her prowess. Pacing was my strategy. We'd already tasted over 20 Ports, wines and moscatels before arriving at DOC and in less than three hours time, we would be off to yet another wine pairing. So I wanted to savor the DOC experience and linger in the warm glow of a fine meal as long as possible.

Next year I will seek some intensive one-on-one indulgence training and coaching prior to the conference in Umbria!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...