One of the more entertaining aspects of aging is the “creative hearing” that develops as bits of frequencies trickle away; a consonant here, a vowel there, so that words are sometimes heard in new, creative, and entertaining ways. In our latest example a phrase about “ideology” was recently heard as “Snideology.” Hmmm, interesting word…what might it mean?? It has a ring to it that effectively captures our most fundamental human instinct: the impulse to jump up and down in primate outrage– or, what has come to be called in our human culture: “politics.” We all do it, right and left, liberal and conservative– use an extensive arsenal of emotionally-laden expressions to challenge other individuals and groups who might otherwise exert power over us. Remember, you heard it here first, folks: ” Snideology:” the art of substituting conniving innuendo for substantive debate, hyperbolic ridicule for valid differences in values, and relentless, finger-pointing Blame for honest political differences. What better name for this trend of our time than “Snideology”….
The blog is late this week because we were camping near Woodinville for a few days, and our usual modes of online access didn’t work. But we did have some great meals and tasted several very interesting wines we hope to offer you in coming months. And in between, despite the sometimes heavy rain, we enjoyed the ducks and cormorants that seemed to know they were protected and nonchalantly wandered about the campground when not paddling in this sweet little lake built from an old peat bog. Periodically they have to gird the lake bottom with a matrix of logs to keep it all from sinking into the bog. The area has evolved over some decades from an old family farm in Bothell. It’s is aptly named Lake Pleasant — and so it is!
The Art of Food
The main reason for our sojourn near Seattle was to attend our friend (and Island resident) Jen’s capstone dinner in completing the Culinary Arts Program at Seattle Central CC, part of a major life transition after a couple of successful decades in finance. At left course #4: slow-roasted pork tenderloin with root vegetables, fingerling potatoes, and roasted sage. Five courses in all: absolutely delicious!
This Week’s Tasting
Lost River Pinot Gris ’12 Washington $15
Aromas of citrus, pear and tropical fruits. Their most popular wine, the crisp acidity is balanced with a small amount of residual sugar.
Portteus Bistro Red 12 Washington $10
54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc. A food friendly wine with delicate yet elegant mouthfeel. Blackberry, pomegranate, cocoa, honey and licorice like flavors with a creamy finish.
Palama Negroamaro ’12 Italy $10
Elegantly expansive, rich and robust, with silky mouthfeel, layered aromas of steeped spices, and palate of blackberry jam with accents of cinnamon, leather, tobacco and smoke.
Altarocca Librato Rosso ’11 Italy $16
Unoaked, from volcanic soil; zesty, spicy, dark, and smooth, with a hint of eucalyptus on the finish. Terrific!
Altavins Tinto Joven ’11 Spain $11
Mouth and sense-filling blend of garnacha, syrah, and carinena, full of ripe dark fruit and berry flavors from Terra Alta’s hot days and cool nights close to Tarragona and the Mediterranean.
Harbingers of Spring
Around here we all know that Spring “begins to begin” on Groundhog Day (Feb 2), which heralds a parade of early Spring signs, including pussy willows, Indian plum, and daffodils. The pussy willows were right on schedule a few weeks ago; the Indian plum tendrils are a good inch long, and the relentless daffodils are already 6-8″ tall. It is deeply reassuring that these Spring harbingers have maintained their relentless harbinging right through a foot of snow (our first this year!) from a vagabond snowstorm that dropped in for a couple of days last week.
clicking on some photos will yield more detailed images
A touch of Winter
First, it snowed. Then it snowed some more. At our place it came to about 9 inches, not bad for the only snow this winter. The wind was so light the snow just piled up wherever it fell– roofs, railings, and of course trees. While we were taking the “road” picture below, it was still snowing, and every ten minutes or so there was a loud “CRAAAACK” as tree branches, limbs, or even whole trees gave in the the weight of the snow. As we would say in Maine, Yessuh, by Gawd, gonna be lotsa fiahwood foh next yeeah.
After the snow, glorious sun shining on snow, overwhelming our squinty Northwest mole-eyes. All in all, a bit of an adventure, lightened to casual nuisance by its occurrence amidst the unmistakable signs of Spring all around. After all, the pussy willows, the Indian plum, and the daffodils know what’s going on, and they’re certain that “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.” Or at least it used to…will it always…?
Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, the Betting is now Closed…
There is a great deal more to Climate Change than ‘Global Warming.” The Deniers look at a Cold Day and Guffaw and Spit through their teeth and exclaim, “You Greenhorn! Why, you thick-skulled, hare-brained, half-witted, Greenhorn! (click for clip, sometimes it works) So it is important to note that “Climate Change” is the more inclusive term, the global-climate-equivalent of “I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more, Toto…” The Big Deal is not that the Planet is getting warmer. The Big Deal is that we are pushing the Planet out of Our equilibrium. But from the Planet’s perspective, it is Always in Equilibrium, and it is not concerned in the slightest with whether this or that species survives. On the contrary, it is up to each species to take its Best Shot, and just because it is our turn at the Plate doesn’t mean we have a Future.
Anyway, musing on our recent unseasonable snowstorm, along with the bizarre weather around the world this winter, I confess to an uneasy feeling that we may have abused our Mother Planet a bit too much. And planets are complicated Beings that take a Very Long View. “Oh yes,” She says, “those humans were SO promising at the beginning, especially that Darwin fellow, he was such a Dear…but yes, they have been quite a big Disappointment after all…”
About ten years ago there was a brief news clip about a Pentagon study that had looked at some unlikely but possible climatic change scenarios involving the Strategic Implcations of….wait for it...a Sudden Ice Age! So our “out of the envelope global weather this year” seems an appropriate cue for digging into the Archives to revisit that analysis. In the words of inspiring eco-spokesman David Suzuki when asked by a Bellingham audience member whether we should be concerned about Global Warming (please think “Climate Change”), said, “You should be shi%$ng your pants!” Although this article is somewhat heavy going (“scholarly”), it raises some interesting questions that are very much worth revisiting. Every day it becomes more and more clear that our political leaders are are unwilling or unable to deal with problems of this magnitude. In short either we have to change how we select our political leaders, or our species will likely perish, and probably sooner rather than later. link
This Week’s Tasting
Leonildo Pieropan Soave ’12 Italy $15
Well-balanced, lively, and tangy, with distinct minerality and appealing flavors of cantaloupe, pear, blood orange and ginger.
Atalaya Laya ’12 Spain $10
70% Garnacha and 30% Monastrell; superb bouquet of dark cherries, blackberry and incense, with layered palate of succulent black fruit ; supremely well-crafted for this price range.
Rio Madre Rioja ’11 Spain 90pts $10
Inky ruby. Spice-accented notes of black currant and cherry cola, dark chocolate and licorice. Concentrated and powerful on the palate, with a spicy note building with air.
Maryhill Zinfandel ’09 Washington
Full-bodied, with smokey aromas of dark ripe plum and candied citrus, with a hefty palate of black currant and leathery dried plum.
Palama Metiusco ’12 Italy $23
50% Negroamaro, 25% Malvasia and Primitivo; fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve the essence of southern Italy’s terroir– medium-bodied, earthy and complex, with a velvety finish of black cherries, raisins and plums.
Marx was Right…or was it Left?
Marx has been badmouthed by capitalists for about 150 years, but he had great insight about how capitalism would influence political economy– back in those days “politics” and “economics” were inseparable aspects of social structure. And not only was he right about a lot of things– as in the quote above, he also had a sense of humor! And for many decades now, there has been an official branch of American economics devoted to the study of Marxist ideas, the Union for Radical Political Economics. Their thinking is particularly useful for examining the distributional issues of economic policy, particularly in urban settings.
A brief look at recent history shows that in the last thirty years in general and the last 15 years in particular, productivity gains in the economy have gone almost entirely to increase corporate profits, while wages have stagnated. That means that as the Pie has gotten much bigger, the shares going to capital have gotten bigger and bigger, while the shares going to labor have gotten smaller and smaller. Recently, workers at VW-Chattanooga were pressured into voting against unionization by anti-union Republican politicians. It turns out, however, that VW considers Republican interference with the union vote contrary to its long-standing commitment to the principle of co-determination between management and labor, and is now (I love this!) less likely to expand its operations in the US South. Gee…by golly, kinda makes me proud to be a VW owner…!
The Art of Wine Continues!
Many of you have experienced it already. If you have, you KNOW you want to do it AGAIN! If you haven’t, you KNOW you MUST have the experience! Well, now you CAN!!! Ryan’s incredibly enlightening, enjoyable, informative, and FUN workshops on the Art of Wine are Back! This time you get to cover the Entire Planet of Wine in a mere Four Weeks! Is this even POSSIBLE?! The answer is Yes! Yes! Yes!!!
Read the announcement for details, and sign up soon, as space is limited!
The standout feature of today’s walk was a Great Blue Heron flying away from us along the beach at Legoe Bay with a foot-long, vaguely reptilian shape in its beak. We caught up with it a few minutes later, standing at the shoreline, and for lack of a better term “managing” its catch. We could not get close enough to see what it was, but as it changed in shape from time to time, it seemed to be alive and giving its best shot at staying that way. The ensuing existential choreography involved long periods of no movement, interspersed with long minutes when the heron appeared to be trying either to kill the catch once and for all and/or to get it into position to swallow. At some point, this long, quiet battle ended with, as you might expect, the catch being swallowed head-first (I think) down, down into the heron’s gullet. And I think: this goes on all the time, moment to moment, creature to creature, predator and prey. And then I think….hmmm….if one has a choice, better to be a predator. And then I think…hmmm….maybe not…! As if, you know, we had a choice…!!
This Week’s Tasting
La Cana Albarino ‘ 12 Spain 91pts $14
From vines perched on blustery and wet Atlantic coast of Spain, just north of Portugal. High-pitched aromas of lime zest, lemongrass, and jasmine; energetic citrus and orchard fruit, finishing with lime and pear skin notes. read more
Jordanov Merlot ’11 Macedonia $10
Macedonia is possibly the birthplace of the cultivated vine in Europe 4000 years ago. The fruit for this wine comes from Tikves, an area with limestone and sandy soils, ideal for growing wine grapes. Notes of blueberry and densely concentrated fruit with a dusty, rich, long finish of cherry and cherry pit minerality. read more
Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon ’10 Chile 90pts $10
Colchagua Valley, at 34°S, is closer to the Equator than any European vineyard, but cooled by the Humboldt Current; the region is characterized by steep slopes of well-drained granitic soil, irrigated by the Tinguiririca River flowing from the Andes. This rich red leads with distinct earthiness to dark cassis, plum reduction and kirsch notes, gaining traction with layers of woodsy spices, maduro tobacco and licorice on the long finish.
Andrew Murray Elleven Cabernet California $16
From south-facing hillside vines on the mineral-rich, clay-loam soils with interspersed cobbles of the new Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara, this wine shows concentrated and complex notes of graphite, forest floor, flowers, and bright cherry.
Vignavecchia Chianti Classico ’10 Italy 89pts $18
Fermented in 100HL cement tanks for two weeks, then 30% aged in wood (90% sangio, 10% merlot) Old-world aromas of redcurrant, cherry pit, violet, tobacco, and horse blanket lead to intense flavors of redcurrant, bitter cherry, spices, and merlot-derived nuances of cocoa and coffee.
Yes! Valentine Truffles!
Fresh from the tempering machine, Pat’s latest batch includes three nuanced flavors, all enrobed in Valrhona 72% Dark Chocolate:
– Classic: Dark French chocolate inside and out;
– Cappucino: Milk chocolate/espresso ganache under dark French chocolate;
– Cranberry: Cranberry-infused white chocolate ganache under dark French chocolate.
Please note: NO pre-orders this time– it’s first-come, first-served beginning Friday night. Truffles are $1 each; treat yourself and your sweetie! Each order tidily bagged and tied, suitable for on the spot gratification or taking home as a Valentine treat! Repeat after me: “YUM!”
Wine without a Home
The Universe is a mysterious place, but there is order to it. Summer comes, grapes ripen by themselves. Grapes are grapes; wine is wine. So at some level if it looks like wine, smells like wine, and tastes like wine, it is probably “wine.” So this weekend we are offering for your tasting pleasure a very modestly priced California zinfandel (see notes, below) that offers a ” deep red hue, rich nose of dark cherries and ripe plums with hints of spice and coffee, and a pleasing palate of blackberry and dark cherry.” And it’s really cheap: $6 a bottle!
Wines like this serve a market need. They are affordable, drinkable, and even enjoyable. They are generally the product of mega-wineries that have tons of juice left over after skimming off their stable of higher-end niche wines to a high standard which typifies their particular place of origin. The deselected juice is then blended and sold under a number of “branded” lower-end labels aimed at lower-priced markets. These wines by their nature have a bigger, County-wide or even California-wide “footprint.” They typify a marketing strategy more than they typify any particular place.
There is a kind of Darwinian market process going on here. The very best fruit finds it way to a small number of the best wines, and all the rest sorts itself out according to its market station. Modern winemaking technology makes all this plonk more or less palatable, and modern marketing gives us countless labels for basically the same wine. The big loss in all of this is that tasting them will not tell you a story about any particular place. So this is probably a good time to say that one basic characteristic of an “Artisan Wine” is that it has a story to tell about where it came from and who made it.
It’s the Carbon, Stupid!
Snow isn’t a big deal when you’re used to it. As a child in Maine in the 50′s (yes, a long time ago!), snow was a familiar and enjoyable part of winter life. Our little residential street had a steep hill on one end, which was generally blocked off at the top for much of the winter, with little wooden barriers and the canteloupe-sized, black, round, flaming pots of oil that were used to mark road hazards in those days. You could pull your sled (they had a short line on the front) to the top of the hill, jump on (head first most of the time, with your hands on the steering bar), zoom down the hill, and coast about a block and a half! So snow can be fun, and if your community is capitalized for it, with plows and sanders and removal plans, it’s pretty easy to live with.
The trouble with Climate Change is that No One is Ready. Not humans, not animals, not plants, not anything that is place-habituated. Those polar bears can swim, but not, you know, 24/7. Those salmon can swim out in the Ocean for a few years and have a great time, but they expect streams and rivers still to be there when they come back to spawn. And those phytoplankton expect the basic salinity and acidity of the ocean to be more or less in the ball park of where it has been for hundreds of millions of years. All I want to say about that is that a few years ago David Suzuki gave a talk at the Mt Baker Theater over there on the mainland. After the talk someone asked if we should be concerned about climate change. He said, “you should be sh*#*ing your pants!”
About thirty years ago as a research fellow on the economic impacts of possible climate change I wrote a paper summarizing the then-current thinking and the likely effects on global fisheries. All you need to know is that the only mistake climate scientists have made is to underestimate the speed and magnitude of the changes. The big takeaway here is that the biosphere is a razor-thin veneer well-adapted to gradual change but utterly incapable of dealing with rapid change. Imagine Winston-Salem with no snowplows, but it just keeps on snowing and snowing and snowing…
This week’s tasting notes
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes ’12 Argentina $14
Highly perfumed aromas of lemon drop, white flowers, peppermint and white pepper. Supple, pliant and easygoing, with citrus, herbal and floral flavors joined by a hint of licorice. Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo, “Queen of Torrontes” strives for balance in her wines, with layers of complexity coming from the individually fermented varietals. She spends a month each year in a different wine region of the world studying with local winemakers and growers. Her wines are seamless and well structured often showing the faint earthiness which is a hallmark of the Mendoza region
Ravenswood ‘Zen of Zin’ Zinfandel ’12 California $6
Deep red hue, rich nose of dark cherries and ripe plums with hints of spice and coffee, and a palate of blackberry and dark cherry. Ravenswood makes about 200,000 cases of wine a year from a broad collection of vineyards in Sonoma County, which generally experience hot days and cool nights, but with a wide array of soil types, temperature variation, elevation, and sun exposure.
Buglioni Valpolicella Classico ’10 Italy $12
Refined, feminine personality. Sweet red berries, flowers and spices linger on the high-toned, refreshing finish. read more about the winemaker
Townshend Red Table Washington $12
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah blend; aromas of black cherry, blackberry, strawberry, cedar and a hint of orange zest fill your senses with lingering pepper & tobacco notes. Spokane’s Townshend Winery gets the majority of its grapes come from the Prosser, Yakima and Tri-Cities, especially Willard Farms in Prosser.
Finca Allende Rioja ’06 Spain $21
Ripe, powerful scents of roasted cherry, plum, dark chocolate, and smoky herbs. Port-like on the palate, with deeply concentrated dark fruit compote, espresso, and bitter chocolate flavors, finishing with a rich wallop of ripe plum and impressive length. Read more about the winery