Sweetest- & Newscarriers- Day
October 22 was first celebrated (I am not making this up) as “Sweetest Day” in Cleveland in 1922, when philanthropic candy company employee Herbert Kingston wanted to bring a little joy into the lives of orphans, shut-ins, and others who were forgotten. With the help of friends, he began to distribute candy and small gifts to the underprivileged. On the first Sweetest Day, (90 years ago today) movie star Ann Pennington (leftmost) presented 2,200 no doubt very excited Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy to express gratitude for their service to the public, while fellow actress Theda Bara (near left) distributed 10,000 boxes of candy to people in Cleveland hospitals. Like us, everyone probably wondered if these Silent Screen stars had, you know, actual Voices, and whether they were anything like what people expected!
This day also commemorates the hiring of the very first newspaper carrier; on September 10, 1833, Benjamin Day, publisher of The New York Sun, hired 10 year old Barney Flaherty to sell papers for his penny press. “The only job requirement, was that he had to show that he could throw a newspaper into the bushes.” (really??…the bushes?)
It seems likely that Kingston and the actresses were aware that the day was already designated as Newspaper Carriers’ Day; or maybe it was just a coincidence (you think???) that on the first “Sweetest Day,” special effort was made to honor the carriers with candy. Personally, I think “Sweetest Day” was a pretty bad choice of names, good intentions notwithstanding… Nowadays, few kids deliver papers anymore except in small towns; it’s mostly adults who get up early and deliver them by car; but the “Carrier Day” tradition lives. Ah, yes, another memory from a simpler time…
Carmenere is a wine grape that originated in France but died out there a century ago, caused either by “coulure,” and the vine’s defensive response to prolonged wet and dark conditions (ummm, probably not a good choice for planting around here…), or perhaps by phylloxera, which decimated French vineyards. For whichever reason, carmenere disappeared from the world in the nineteenth century, only to be rediscovered– and this is the exciting part- within the last decade or two, mainly in Chile, where it had been grown for over a hundred years under the mistaken impression that it was a clone of Merlot. Over the years we have carried several carmeneres, and we have enjoyed them all. Softer than merlot, mellower than malbec, wines from this varietal occupy a unique and satisfying niche between the Big Tannic Guns of the Bordeaux varietals (cab, merlot, malbec, cab franc) and the softer “wines of the sun” of the South (grenache, syrah, mourvedre). We will be pouring one this weekend; come check it out! more history of Carmenere
Betz Family Winery Fall Releases
Twice a year we head down to Woodinville to pick up new releases from Betz. In the winter they release their Bordeaux-style blends (based on cabernet sauvignon and merlot), and in the fall they release their Rhone-style blends (based on syrah, grenache, and mourvedre). This year their release party was the first weekend after Labor Day, or as it is usually known around here, the first weekend of Drydock. So we missed the release party, and finally made it to Woodinville to pick up the wines this week. We don’t usually pour these wines at tastings, but since we haven’t tried them yet, we will pour a couple of them this weekend. The good news is that these are world class wines made here in Washington; the bad news is that these are $40-$50 wines, so the tasting will be$10 this week instead of the usual $5. The way the math works out, if we monitor pours very carefully, we might break even on the tasting, and we will all get to taste a couple of exceptional wines.
Here’s a short video of winemaker Bob Betz talking about the 2010 vintage
This week’s tasting
Fleur Chardonnay ’08 California $10
From vineyards in the hills along California’s North Coast combining opulent fruit with wonderful richness and brilliant color; aromas of apricots, honeysuckle and Comice pear. Aging in neutral French oak on the lees gives the wine a creamy, soft texture and a wonderful richness.
La Joya Carmenere ’10 Chile $11
Nicely toasty, with a coffee edge framing the black currant, plum and tobacco notes, which push through on the finish.
Betz Grenache Bésoleil ’10 Washington $39
Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah each complement the dominant black raspberry notes of Boushey vineyard Grenache, creating aromatic layering and palate impression of cream, white pepper, lavender blossom and toasted earth. Silky and full on entry, the mid palate expands while still remaining plump and supple.
Betz Syrah La Serenne ’10 Washington $49
Impenetrable black color of classic Boushey vineyard Syrah leads to distinctive and seductive aromas of smoky, candied blackberry that gives way to notes of licorice, iron, roasted earth and meat. Despite the cooler vintage conditions, there a full, rich, almost powerful overall impression, the velvet hammer, the gloved fist: plush, silky and yet jam packed with character.