Lummi Island Wine Tasting September 29 ’12
The Sky is “Falling!”
Here we are, nearing the end of another summer– the summeriest summer I can remember in these parts– and right now while we are basking in glorious, sunny, fall days with cool foggy mornings and glorious, warm afternoons under deep blue skies, I look back and wonder, “why didn’t I go sailing more?” Our trusty old sailboat that we share with another couple has been moored south of the ferry dock since the beginning of June, and yes we have enjoyed a few daysails over the summer (and, yes, maybe a few more than other recent years!) but only one overnight cruise this year, a bit of a disappointment. Each of us probably has a long list of postponed pleasures like this, things we want to do, places we want to go, people we want to visit with, songs we want to sing, but that we don’t very often get around to realizing. Why is that?
In the case of sailing, there are lots of dimensions to the answer, but the one that seems the hardest to gain traction with is the sense that even though I am retired, and my time is my more my own– (or more precisely, our time is our own…!) than since I was a kid on summer vacation, I have not been able to escape the habitual sense of Duty and Responsibility that we develop as adults out in the Big World: when you get the ten thousand things done, then you can go sailing. So the koan for the moment is, “why do we spend our time the way we do?”
Note in a bottle
Let’s face it: there is something archetypically haunting and romantic about notes in bottles. What is it about our private conversations with ourselves that could bring us to pen a note, put it in a bottle, and throw it into the sea? What, if anything, do we expect in return? What, if anything, do we want in return? There is something here about the mystery of internal dialogue, the bizarre and, let’s face it, vaguely schizophrenic act of talking to ourselves as if someone else were listening, or as if there were another “us” who would what– reply? Of course, I am going out on a big limb here by assuming that everyone has an internal dialogue, some kind of ongoing narrative that we maintain for only one special listener: ourselves. Could anyone write a blog without having such an imaginary friend…?
Last week my old buddy and boat co-owner Bob and I took a little overnight sail; the wind was so light we only got as far as Inati Bay, but even that can be a world away. What is important for this story is that on the way we spotted a bottle floating in the water and grabbed it as we went by. It’s a plastic bottle, about a quart size, with an orange cap. It is weighted with a small handful of marble sized, crushed rock fragments (not round pebbles) and a note handwritten on white notebook paper with a red margin line and a series of green horizontal lines that have gotten wet and bled to be about an eighth of an inch wide.
It’s from a man to a woman, and it is clear that the relationship has ended, that it was very special (I can’t describe how happy and free I was when I was around you), and that he has a wife in the picture, and this woman is not the wife. The feeling that is conveyed is of deep involvement (“I am inspired by your outlook on life and what I saw has changed me forever”), and that this note is a way of trying to honor his love in a way that begins to let him let go of her: I am writing this to put in a bottle and throw into the sea. So when I visit anywhere in the world by the water, I will be able to let go of pain and appreciate beauty.
I am thinking we have all been Fools for Love at some time or another, and paid for the experience, and feel compassion for what this man is feeling and expressing. Because this note to his lost Love, sent so indirectly by way by of the Sea, this note from his internal conversation, is one that we all understand, let’s all put our collective cosmic hand on his shoulder and offer comfort…though we may have no great pearls of wisdom, maybe we can somehow acknowledge our common human experience, so poignantly represented by the simple act of throwing a note, in a bottle, into the sea…
Rosé Sale continues!
If I remember correctly, we didn’t sell any rosé last weekend. This is surprising, for two reasons. First, all our Rosés are 10% off, and second, the weather is gorgeous, and these sunsets continue to be perfect for rosé. I notice that for myself, rosé carries these meanings of summer, and of lingering lunches in European cafés in Italy, France, and Spain. So I think I have also come to the point where, okay, I am accepting (it has taken years!): rosé is actually wine, and, ah, oui, I actually like it, and I really don’t care what season it is. I DO think that the “shrine” at the top of the stairs represents the seasonal aspect of rosé, however, so after this weekend the rosés will migrate to their respective regional displays, and prices will go back to normal. I say this after considerable experimentation has revealed that, imho, a good rosé will rest comfortably on the shelf for several years and be just as refreshing as when it was released!
Tomorrow afternoon (Friday) Ryan and I are getting together to toss around ideas about our nascent “wine club.” All I can tell you right now is that we are looking to reward and encourage consistent support, expand our services to include island delivery, online ordering, member discounts, personal ratings, purchase history, and special deals on wines we might be able to import ourselves. We are actively soliciting suggestions about how we can serve you even better (yes I am serious–you know, just as if we were a Real Business!…I SO can’t get my head around that…or is it ‘I so can’t get that around my head”…?))
This week’s wines
Marques de Casa Concha chardonnay ’09 Chile 90pts $15
A medium-bodied, ripe, plush Chardonnay with vibrant tangerine, spiced apple, melon, and heather notes, with savory flavors, lively acidity, and excellent length.
L’Hortus Rose de Saignee ’11 France $17
The Hortus 2010 Rose de Saignee – Grenache with small portions of Mourvedre and especially late-ripening Syrah – delivers tart fresh red raspberry and cherry tinged with cherry pit and chalk on a polished palate, with a clean, refreshing finish.
Monte Oton Garnacha ’10 Spain $9
100% Garnacha sourced from higher elevation. Spice box, incense, mineral, and black cherry notes inform the nose of this round, supple, savory red.
Masquerade Cabernet Sauvignon “Troika” ’07 Washington $22
A big hit at our June”Zodiac” tasting, this well-structured blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from three renowned Columbia Valley vineyards is full-bodied with robust notes of black cherries and plums that give way to a smooth finish of chocolate and coffee bean.th
Lummi Island Wine Tasting Fall Equinox September 22 ’12
Fall for 2012…
…begins here in our corner of the Northern Hemisphere on September 22 at 8:49 AM PDT. This picture from our yard was taken at sunset tonight (the 20th), so on the day of the actual Equinox the sun will set (from our perspective) pretty much at the northern tip of Orcas Island, the flat part just to the left of the sun tonight.
The Great Rosé sale
Since Fall is officially here, it is time to phase out our Rosé Shrine at the top of the stairs. Rosé has made a big splash in the market in the last couple of years, and we, too developed a taste for it on our few recent trips to Europe. There it is common to have a pretty large meal in the early afternoon, when rosé is the perfect accompaniment with its subdued flavors, brisk acidity, and cheerful color, from pale pink to deep red-orange and everything in between. As many of us have learned in the past few years, the rosés that are being so widely enjoyed today are either bone-dry or just ever so slightly off-dry; refreshing and palate-cleansing, they are not, as some people fear, “sweet.”
So as another Northwest Summer (yes it was actually HOT here for a few hours this year!!!) fades into Fall, it’s a great time to enjoy another few bottles of rosé at sunset, with a little bite of something savory and someone special to share it with.
While it lasts, 10% off all rosés!
Famous Chef visits Artisan Wine Gallery!
They seemed like just another charming couple, he (Maxime) the famous-in-certain-circles French chef and author, and she (Katie) the sweet young cowgirl from Montana. And they were very charming, dropping in late in the afternoon on a drifting, drydock Saturday chez nous. It wasn’t until they had been here quite awhile that we realized that he was (OMD!) Maxime Bilet, co-author with bazillionaire food experimenter/explorer Nathan Myhrvold of the “widely praised, six-volume, 2,400-page ‘cookbook’ Modernist Cuisine that reveals science-inspired techniques for preparing food that range from the otherworldly to the sublime. The authors and their 20-person team at The Cooking Lab have achieved astounding new flavors and textures by using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, centrifuges, and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, and enzymes. It is a work destined to reinvent cooking.”
All of this, I might add, has been accomplished just as Maxime has reached the ripe old age of…wait for it…30! He is a charming, unassuming young man of whom we could say “he is going places,” but of course he has already been some pretty amazing places, and it leaves this old guy baffled even to imagine what comes next. Hey, maybe he will be the next famous chef at the Willows when Blaine retires…you know, when he’s 30…!
At various times it seems the Universe has a Plan that just starts unfolding around you, and there’s not much to do but follow along as best you can. This seems to be one of those times with regard to our “gallery” function. For most of the past seven years we have enjoyed inviting various local artists to use our wall space (we get new decor and they get some level of exposure), and that has usually taken the form of one- or two-month shows. In between artists, we display our fall-back, default wine posters, mostly from a great series of annual Jazz posters from Longoria winery in Los Olivos (same place as movie Sideways), and named after a wine they do each year called “Blues Cuvée.”
In the last few weeks a couple of artists who have displayed their work here in the past have offered to leave pieces in our care as our new “default” pieces. So the good news is that we have some new (and old) works by Island artists Meredith Moench and Brendan Dunn for your (and our) viewing pleasure. I did try to take pictures of a few of them to post here, but as I mentioned last week, our camera is doing very weird things which make most of our recent pictures unusable. (The sunset photo above was just barely salvageable– you can see the strange horizontal bars if you click on the photo for the larger version).
So please do come on by this weekend: see the art, buy some rosé, schmooze a bit, lament the passing of another summer, and start celebrating next week’s return of the Whatcom Chief, our trust ferry.
This week’s tasting notes
Naia Naia ’10 Spain 89pts $14
100% Verdejo but with 12% of the wine fermented and aged in French oak. This fragrant, medium-bodied offering displays enticing aromatics of grapefruit, lime, and kiwi, a round, smooth-textured mouth-feel, and a crisp, refreshing acidity.
Celler Masroig Rosat ’09 Spain $8
A light, uncomplicated rosat we enjoyed in Spain a few months ago after visiting the wine cooperativa that makes it.
Honoro Vera Monastrell ’10 Spain $9
Tank aged 100% Monastrell. Its pleasing nose reveals notes of underbrush, mineral, and blueberry leading to a savory, spicy, nicely balanced medium-bodied wine.
Lost River Nooksack Redd ‘08 Washington $18
Our friends at Lost River make this special blend of cab, merlot, and cab franc to benefit the Nooksack River Salmon Enhancement Administration…a worthy cause, AND it’s DELICIOUS!
Lummi Island Wine Tasting September 15 ’12
Drydock is a little like summer vacation for us retired folks. Even the wine shop is a bit self-tending this month: no wines to order and schlep, lots of folks away (both summer residents and a fair number of full-timers), and low expectations for Friday and Saturday turnout. Add to that beautiful clear weather, cool mornings and warm afternoons, and ahhh, life is good!
Drydock is also a good time to tackle some of those pesky projects that we expect to take a fair amount of time and effort, and which are therefore easy to postpone. (As the quip goes, “Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will; there’s no need to remind him every six months about it!”). The first project has been building the framework for a new deck in front of the house. When the ferry is back, we will add the decking. And if the good weather holds, maybe a little bubbly to christen it…! As one of our favorite cartoon characters would say,., “Well, Gromit, I guess that turned out about as well as could be expected…?”
Space Aliens visit wine shop !
Yes, it’s true, even eagle-beaked Aliens from the Bird Planet love our wines! Seriously, for some while now our little camera has been a little neurotic. For example, the picture above of the deck project has a bunch of horizontal lines in it (you might need to click on it for the larger version to see them). And recently several pictures from this camera have transformed their subjects into spacey Zombie Melts or Space Aliens (see left) — sure, entertaining, but not exactly what one is looking for in a photograph, eh…?
Any ideas on what is going on and how to correct it would be welcome. After all, this little camera has been faithfully chronicling events at the wine shop for years now, and we would like to keep it going. “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” as John Cameron Swayze used to say about Timex watches after dropping one from the Empire State Building, or running over one with a Sherman tank, or boiling one in oil, or feeding it to a python and retrieving it from python doo-doo (OMD…do pythons DO doo-doo???) see old Timex ad
Italian Olive Oil
No matter how, um, mature one gets, one is always (I love how use of the “this has nothing to do with me” third person ‘one’ means we can be talking about anyone…), it is always difficult to say, “Sorry… I know absolutely NOTHING about that!” Yet when it comes to olive oil, that’s pretty much where many of us live. Two years ago we were in Tuscany for three weeks; a year ago we were in France for three weeks; and this Spring we were in Spain for three weeks (yes, travel is definitely one of the perks of being retired!) . Each country is famous for both their wines and their olive oils; we have learned a lot about the wines of each country, or at least some regions of each, but somehow we haven’t really acquired much ability to distinguish one national style of olive oil from another, even though many wineries also make olive oil.
Maybe that just means that all olive oil is good, and who cares where it comes from? More likely, as with any kind of education, we just don’t have enough experience to be able to make the subtle distinctions among different olive oils. What we have learned is that in Tuscany, they like their olive oil young and fresh, maybe even a little “green,” and with a “bite” that you can feel in your throat when you swallow.
For a couple of years we have carried olive oil from one of our favorite Italian wineries, Perazzeta, which is located just south of the Montalcino wine region. Even though we know little about olive oil, we are impressed with the fact that these winery olive oil labels tell when (to the month) the olives were picked (and pressed). This is not something we Americans think about: how long has it been since this olive oil was made?
A few months ago we bought a bunch of wine from an importer who specializes in Italian wines (with a name like Giuseppe he is definitely Italian), and he also introduced us to another very small Italian production family olive oil, which we will be tasting this weekend: Gemma. His suggestion for tasting olive oil is to stick a finger into a dish of it, then use the finger to rub it around the palm of your other hand to warm it, then mindfully smell and then lick your hand (discreetly, discreetly!) to get a good sense of the aroma and flavor of the oil. Come on by and try it…and sure, it’s okay if you wash your hands first!
Case sale and Wine Club Musings
We have some good news and some bad news, and we’re not sure which is which. One of the “newses” is that the $99 case sale has turned out to be an unsustainable, “break-even” arrangement. Therefore it will be discontinued, effective immediately, which raises the question: What will replace it?
The short answer is, “we don’t know!”
However, we are clear that we need to win more of your wine purchasing dollars. We know that many of our regular supporters and a LOT of our resident non-supporters buy most of their wine from Costco, Trader Joe’s, the gas station or Trolls under a Bridge, with the result that our volume is too small to compete with any of them. After numerous discussions, we are perhaps starting to get a sense of our ( I really hate this term) ….Business Plan.
What we know so far is that we very much need to earn a greater percentage of your wine-buying dollar than we currently enjoy. And since we certainly can’t stock every wine on the market, that means that we need to be able to acquire your favorite wines for you at unrefusable prices. What we need to know next is what wines you buy Elsewhere, and what needs to happen before you would prefer to get them from us instead.
So let’s talk about that over the next few weeks!
This week’s tasting: (the madness continues: four hefty pours for only $5!):
Altarocca Arcosesto Orvieto ’10 Italy $14
A crisp, clean, fragrant white wine (grechetto, procanico, malvasia), bright and sunny with minerally notes of flowers, citrus, and dried fruits.
Pierre Usseglio Cotes du Rhône Rosé ’11 France $18
Grenache 80%, Cinsault 20%. Only 3,000 bottles of this gorgeous and special rosé are produced from the direct press method. Elegant and velvet of texture, this refreshing, stylish rosé has pretty strawberry and almond aromas, some notes of garden herbs and a clean, smooth finish. A very classy rosé.
Bodegas Ateca Garnacha de Fuego ’10 Spain $10
100% old-vine (65-85 years of age) Garnacha. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it offers up aromas of pure black cherries and violets. Dense on the palate and remarkably rich for its humble price, this great value over-delivers big-time.
Lost River Cabernet Sauvignon ’07 Washington WS 91 pts $22
Supple, refined and expressive, built around a core of black cherry, currant and floral flavors that expand gently on the long, harmonious finish. Shows deft balance and doesn’t flag as the finish lingers. Best from 2014 through 2019.
Lummi Island Wine Tasting September 8 ’12 Drydock Weekend 1
Okay folks, it’s here: Annual Drydock. The Whatcom Chief has steamed off to wherever she goes to get her bearings greased, her rust removed, her makeup tidied up. Walking along Island roads today we noticed an odd combination of somewhat contradictory feelings. One is a sense of Vacation, as if we have suddenly been transported to a new island retreat, a place that is strangely quiet. Passing cars are an oddity, and there is a curious sense of quiet. It’s very relaxing, very soothing.
On the other hand, despite the stunning sunny days we have been having lately, I’m sure you have all noticed the little nip of Fall in the air that can be felt on your skin even while the radiant heat of the Sun still feels a little hot. So these Drydock days are also a little reminiscent of summer vacation spots in New England after the seasonal crowd has gone back to the City for the winter– a little deserted, a little strange, a little unfamiliar.
This Drydock we have committed ourselves to staying on the island for the duration (no car on the mainland this year), and I notice it feels like a vacation of sorts, a time to let go of some old habits, try some new things, get some projects done, and, of course, have the occasional glass of wine while contemplating yet another spectacular sunset.
For years now we have been repeating the same line, partially a joke and partially serious: “Our hours are Fridays 4-7, Saturdays 2-6, Anytime for Wine Emergencies.” And over the years we have gotten the occasional call from friends and neighbors that they have an imminent event and need a bottle of wine, could we possibly help? We like and appreciate these kinds of calls, so thanks to those of you who make the effort to let us fill your wine needs.
Along a similar line, the original sign we had made for the shop, the one that is not displayed continuously, shows our hours and then also says, “or by appointment.” Curiously, until today No One has ever taken us up on that. But yesterday I was in the garage gathering tools for a project when a young couple happened by on a little walk from their rental on the North end (about 4 miles, I think) who requested a special tasting, which we scheduled for this afternoon. They are Hadj and Vinnie (shown here with their friend Connie from Lopez I), a vivacious young couple staying at the Willows for a few days on the very first part of a year-long journey around the world (I am not making this up!) -- one part honeymoon, two parts completing MD training, and three parts it’s big world and what better time to explore it???!!!
So here they are with their long-time friend Connie (a Lopez Island neighbor) in the shop this afternoon for a “private tasting.” Not having done this before, it was a little challenging to set up, but it worked out beautifully– a treat for us and enjoyable for them. We wish them well in all their future endeavors, and look forward to their next visit.
So sure, you are asking yourselves, all well and good, but what does it have to do with ME? Well, all you need to know is that we opened some pretty good wines for this special event and there are a few left, and we will pour them first for our Friday night visitors (today if you are subscribed to the blog). The wines include Lullaby sauvignon blanc (crisp and citric), Syncline roussanne (elegant and fleshy), and Lost River Syrah (dark cherry and satin).
I confess we did pour a fourth wine for the tasting, one that had been especially requested by our guests, the Feather cabernet sauvignon from Long Shadows. Suffice it to say that due to circumstances beyond our control this wine will not be available for tasting this weekend (these things just Disappear!) but we can say it was, um, “pretty good” and yes we have more in stock at $50/bottle. In case you don’t recall, Long Shadows is a kind of wine-making and marketing experiment from a guy named Allen Shoup, who headed Chateau Ste Michelle for many years. After he retired, he decided it would be interesting to bring some of the world’s best winemakers to Washington to make their wines here with Washington fruit. You can check the website (above) for details about the wines. All you need to know is that– how shall I put this—they are all elegant and pleasing, I like them a lot, and yes, we have various vintages of most of them in stock! (Read more about Long Shadows)
This weekend’s wines
For the past several years I have gone out to the shop on Thursday evenings, picked wines for the weekend, and found reviews of them to post here for you on Thursday nights. Right at the moment it occurs to me to wonder: does anyone actually care about tasting notes for the scheduled wines ..? Really, all you need to know is that we will pour at least four wines; it will cost you $5 for the whole tasting; and a good time will be had by all. If you feel strongly about knowing what we will be pouring, please post a comment or send a private email to let us know. Maybe we will post wines next week, maybe not. All you need to know for sure is that we have some very nice wines left over from our special Thursday tasting, and we will pour them for our first several visitors on Friday, September 7….!