Wine Tasting October 1 ’10
The first thing is that I wasn’t supposed to be here last weekend. The plan was that my old friend and boat (it’s moored south of the ferry landing along with a bunch of others) co-owner Bob were going to sail out to Sucia last Friday for the weekend, because his son was getting married there. Between iffy weather forecasts and the exigencies of parental responsibilities, the sailing trip was cancelled, and there I was marooned at the wine shop as usual. As it turned out, Saturday was a stunning day, and the wedding festivities went off (so we are told) without a hitch. So congratulations to Beau and Kari, aye, hoist yer glasses, mates!
The other thing that didn’t happen was that Judy didn’t have to step in to fill in with the wine pouring, so everybody got the usual scene rather than the Party Atmosphere that she seems to carry with her. She did, however, stop by and share a few new wines with us, some of which you are likely to see again in the future.
The other convergent event that set the tone for the day was the little Blogofest that spilled onto our shores. As some of you may know, our Most Loyal and Faithful supporter Anne, who lives down the street, has a charming little blog (see sidebar) . So does her daughter Julia (Duchess Omnium). Anne has made a lot of friends with her blog, including other writers of like mind, and the weekend past was the occasion of visits from two linked bloggers (Ruth and Tessa ). So below we have the four of them, together at last, having travelled to Lummi Island from England, Austin, and Toronto, respectively, just because they like each other’s writing. Is that cool or what?
Last week’s wines were uniformly popular and therefore highly recommended. The possible asterisk there is the Layer Cake cotes de rhone, which is a tad on the Old World style for many Western palates. This week we will pour the latest incarnation of the Layer Cake shiraz (Australia), which is definitely New World, along with several other lovelies.
And finally, I think the big KING-5 Best of the Whatever contest may be about over. I haven’t checked to see how we fared, but I do want to thank all of you who voted for us for best wine shop in the Northwest (which of course we are, because of all of you who come and hang out and join the ongoing salon. Thanks! And just in case it’s NOT too late to vote again, Here’s the link!
This week’s wines:
Nefarious Cellars “Consequence” White ‘08 Washington $15
Off-dry in style, a blend of Aligote and Viognier, a great patio sipper, with flavors of peaches, apricots, green apple, stone fruit, and ruby red grapefruit, with really lovely mouth-cleansing acidity.
Ricardo Santos Malbec ’07 Argentina $16
A ripe, juicy style, with a mix of raspberry and boysenberry fruit that stays fresh, while spice and licorice hints chime in on the medium-weight finish.
Layer Cake Shiraz ’09 Australia $14 WS89pts
Smooth and round, almost black in color, with the generous currant and black plum flavors poking through a layer of fine tannins on the finish.
Waterbrook Reserve Merlot 07 Washington $20 WS92pts
Ripe, pure, focused and beguiling for its balance, offering blueberry, raspberry and plum fruit at the core, layered with hints of red pepper, clove and peach fuzz as the finish extends extraordinarily well.
Wine Tasting Sept 25 ’10
It was a Quiet Day at the wine shop. Clouds and rain had cleared about lunchtime, treating us to a surprisingly warm and sunny afternoon. “Quiet” means that many regulars were off to places like Russia and France and LA, so that left it for new and occasional visitors to fill in.
Kristin and Ron inspired us with stories of marathons (she talked him into it) and Iron Man events (her thing), where the athlete runs a 26-mile marathon AFTER swimming a few miles and biking a hundred or so. She hasn’t been in for a year or so, but you tend to remember a person with a hobby like that, especially a smallish woman who, other than that, seems, you, know, quite sane! The early hours are really the best for having actual conversations with our guests, so we got to have a nice visit. We’re not quite ready to sponsor the First Lummi Island Marathon, but I could see how the next Run on the Rock might be set up to draw some serious competitors. Stay tuned!
If you’ve followed this blog the last several weeks, you know that Rachel and Andreea have been doing a lot of entertaining. First they brought in “the Smalls” (August 7), and then “the Talls” (Sept 11), and this weekend it was “the Family” (though I think they had a nickname, too!). All you need to know is that the VERY COOL hat on the head of the handsome young man in the back is called a “Tuesday cap,” and it may be the Hat I Have Been Looking For. He let me try it on, and all hands thought it very well could be the Baldness Cozy a man in my situation needs at a certain age. We found a shop online (that’s how we found out it is a Tuesday cap), and it just remains to put in the order. So Thanks, “Tuesday cap” man!
Wine responses were mixed last week. The Byron chard always seems to show well; the Gardies had a surisingl intensity. The Sorenson malbec got really mixed results; those of us who liked it liked it quite a bit, while those who didn’t were not ambivalent, either. It does have some unusual nuances of flavor, which I find pleasant and intriguing. We’ll pour it again soon.
Possibly the hit of the day was the Port o’ Call from Fairwinds winery in Port Townsend. This heart-warming, port-like dessert wine is a definite crowd-pleaser; pick some up now for the coming holidays!
This week’s wines:
Maryhill Reserve Chardonnay 08 Washington $14
Lovely Topaz color and beguiling aromas of cooked apricot, vanilla, nuts and caramel that continue onto the pleasantly lingering palate.
Peirano Six Clones Merlot 07 (Calif) $10
Aromas of rich ripe cherries and blackberries with hints of leather and vanilla; robust flavors of cherry, plum, cranberry, raspberries and strawberries with lingering hints of cocoa and cinnamon. Terrific buy! (note: Wine Spectator got this one Really Wrong: “Lean and clumsy, with earthy herb and ripe cherry notes.—79 pts)!
Layer Cake Cotes du Rhone 06 France $14
Unique combination of rich, forward fruit more commonly found in wines of the New World, yet with pleasing accents of Old World minerality; a true food wine with balanced richness; offering earthy flavors of wild blueberries, black currants, and star anise.
Maryhill Reserve Zinfandel 2005 Washington $28
Deep notes of plums, cherry tobacco, and hints of freshly ground coffee. As it opens you’ll find smoked bacon, maple syrup and campfire aromas. On the palate it’s rich and full of candied fruits, butterscotch and holiday spices.
Wine Tasting Sept 18 ’10
Don’t forget to vote for us as Best Wine Shop in the Northwest on King5 web site! Vote early, vote often! Tweet it! Facebook it! Here’s the link!
The big local news for the day is that Sean’s Mom bought a place on the Island, and Saturday was the first night in the new place. So that’s pretty exciting, and all were in a Festive mood!
Julia is here visiting her Mom (Anne) again from her home on the Narrow Boat Pangolin somewhere on the canals of England…you can read about it on her blog (which is also listed in the links on the right, along with Anne’s; they are both entertaining writers, so check ‘em out.
Only a couple of people mentioned my little memoir about 9/11 last week. There was just something about writing down the date as I started the blog entry for the day that grabbed my attention…
It sometimes happens, though not so much lately as during our first years, that at the end of our tasting there is still a fair amount of wine left in open bottles, which of course is then my duty to sample over the remainder of the week or until it is gone. That happened last weekend, fairly early on in the second bottles of the day. That provided an opportunity to taste a couple of them over several days, which can be interesting, as some wines improve for a while and some lose their oomph overnight.
All you need to know is that the lovely Marchetti later harvest verdicchio continued to get better for several days, growing “fatter” in texture and richer in flavor…entirely pleasant. Also, our little Spanish red, the Condesa Crianza, softened and spread its wings a bit over the next day or two. By the way I should mention that I did use a little pump-sealer to remove some of the air, so maybe that helped. I just got a batch of those in; it’s a pretty inexpensive way to extend the life of an open bottle should it, you know, survive its opening night. They’re very inexpensive at $7.50. Actually they were Myra’s idea, but she and Ben left on their trip before the tools arrived.
Last Saturday morning we started the day in a campground at Port Townsend, having visited the Wooden Boat Festival, an annual outing. Had the opportunity to taste wines from a couple of local PT wineries, and brought some home to taste this weekend. I think you’ll like them!
This week’s tasting:
Byron chardonnay ‘06 (California) $19
Supple, rich and creamy up front, with fig, marshmallow and floral-honeysuckle flavors that are pure, clean and mouthwatering; nice balance of fruit and oak.
Domaine Gardies Les Milleres France $14 89pts
This blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan carries aromas of lightly cooked red raspberry, grenadine, walnut husk, juniper, and vivid concentration of tart red fruit, resin, and tar, & accents of cardamom and black pepper, and abundant, fine-grained tannin that will match perfectly with red meats.
Sorenson Malbec ’07 Washington $18
Discovered this little winery in Port Townsend last weekend, and this was my favorite wine. Complex aromas of bright black cherry, juniper, and smoke lead to a satisfying palate with intriguing layers of fruit, berry, and spice flavors.
Fair Winds “Port O’Call” dessert wine Washington $20
Definitely port-like in character, this lightly fortified dessert wine we discovered last weekend in Port Townsend has a seductive warmth and aromatic richness; you could wait for winter to uncork and sip by the fire, but why wait?
Churches of a thousand years
Nothing could be more obvious in Italy than the pervasive influence of the Church for over a thousand years. Religion being what it is, basically a political, power-driven institution under a veneer of spiritualism, it is easy to imagine how powerful an influence it was in medieval life. In the name of religion, it was possible to skim enough resources from a poor agrarian society to finance these huge constructions that would take decades or even centuries to complete.
So there is a certain sense of awe at seeing these old structures, one the still-functioning alabaster cathedral at Sant Antimo, the other a long abandoned ruin at San Galgano. At Sant Antimo a small group of priests “perform” daily Mass and several periods of prayer for a tiny group of tourists, with well-practiced Gregorian chant and clouds of incense.
Somewhere in the midst of any ritual performed regularly and mindfully, there is some element of true spirituality, whether it is these priests and their incense and chanting, or Zen monks with their incense and chanting, or any of many tribal cultures with their sage, dances, and singing.
These are ancient practices that call us to mindfulness, and even though we maintain our skepticism about the politics of religion, maybe we all long for some kind of authentic connection to the Absolute, some understanding of the Mystery of what and why we exist. Seeing these priests perform their rituals, experiencing the sound of the chanting and the way the morning sun illuminates the incense-filled air, and feeling small under the vaulted roof so high overhead, it is easy to imagine how susceptible people must have been a thousand years ago…and how powerful were those who held Authority over them.