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Barley & Rye with Pumpkin Seeds – Made with a levain (sourdoug) that is fermented overnight before being mixed with bread, barley, rye and whole wheat, some buttermilk and honey and then loaded with toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes for a very flavorful bread – $5/loaf.
Kamut Levain – another overnight levain of bread flour with fresh milled whole kamut, also known as khorason wheat – an ancient grain of the middle east now grown in (we are not making this up) Montana. Some people find it easier to digest than the normal hard red wheat most used in bread. – $5/loaf.
And for pastry this week…
Chocolate Croissants– Ooh La La, also made with an overnight levain, and a hint of whole wheat and wheat germ before being rolled out and laminated with rich European butter. and filled with chocolate before baking. – 2/$5
At a recent trade tasting we spent a fair amount of time talking with Charlie Gilbert, who poured for us a number of current releases from Gilbert Cellars in Yakima. His great-grandfather moved his family to Washington from Illinois in 1897, and over the next fifty years built an extended family business with hundreds of acres of orchards in the Yakima Valley. Charlie’s grandfather Curtiss, returned from the front in WWI in 1918, also became an avid outdoorsman who often hiked with William O. Douglas. Curtiss died in 1947; in 1948 Justice Douglas was instrumental in naming the tallest peak in Washington’s Goat Rocks wilderness– where they had hiked– Gilbert Peak (photo, left), after his old friend. You can read more of the family history here.
Gilbert Cellars began in 2002 as something of an experiment in making wine for the extended family. It has grown into something of a showcase of what careful artisan winemaking can do with Yakima Valley fruit. Under winemaker Justin Neufeld their wines have won numerous high scoring reviews, and over the next few weeks we look forward to pouring several selections for you. We begin this weekend with their Pilgrim Red, a curious blend of malbec, grenache, and (I’m not making this up) pinot noir. Treat yourself by coming by and checking it out.
Last of the Moulinier
Domaine Moulinier is something of an icon here at AWG, as a search through our blog archive will reveal. We visited Moulinier on our first trip to France, around 2011, about a year before many of you also visited there on one of several tours with our own Ryan Wildstar.
As we wrote at the time, “The winery is in its fifth and sixth generations with retiring winemaker Guy Moulinier (we had a great time trying to understand each other while he gave us a tour of the winery) and his son Stephane who now makes most of the wines. In the winery are astonishing displays of fossils and artifacts dug up in the past hundred years in their vineyards, including dinosaur eggs and bones and stone tools of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon hominids. Their collection rivals anything you would see in a museum, really amazing.”
At this point I am sad to say that the Northeast importer with whom Ryan arranged to bring a number of French wines into Washington is no longer importing them into the country, and therefore they will not be available for the foreseeable future. We will continue to explore avenues to acquire these wines (Moulinier and La Liquiere in particular). This weekend we are pouring our last available case of the Moulinier Cotes du Rhone… 🙁
Life As We Know It
A couple of months ago the NASA Space Station took this photo of two hurricanes about 400 and 1300 miles respectively from the Big Island of Hawaii. This is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is seeing two hurricanes, not only happening at the same time, but close enough to each other to be visible in the same photo. Like, that’s so Alarming it’s definitely beyond OMD and is a long way toward WTF. Maybe we need a new Acronym that is like those two only, you know, Way More So.
For some years now cyclonic megastorms (Hurricanes, Typhoons, or Cyclones depending on their location) have been getting Worse, causing more Damage, Loss, and Misery. This is not a Surprise. One of the Basic Features of Global Warming is that there is more Heat in the Atmosphere, and therefore there is more Kinetic Energy in the atmosphere, and therefore No One should be Surprised that Big Storms are getting Bigger and do More and More Damage.
Sure, you say to yourself, Everybody Knows That. But what does it have to do with the Election next week?
It has to do with the Fact that apparently millions of our Fellow Citizens will not believe in Climate Change until their houses blow away and Sea Level is up to their Ears. On the Contrary, they are continually on the Lookout for the Snake Oil that will Make Everything All Right Again. They are Angry, they are Poorly Informed, and they are Completely Unaware that “President of the United States” is pretty close to the most demanding job on our Planet, and that, yes, there ought to be some Minimal Qualifications for the job, and no, your vote should not be an Offhand Decision.
This is a Very Scary Time. folks. Be sure to vote. And be sure to drop by the wine shop this weekend. In these Difficult Times, it’s a Welcome Comfort. And May the Force Be With Us…!
This week’s wine tasting
Brancott Sauvignon Blanc ’15 New Zealand $16
Complex nose melds citrus peel and tropical fruits with notes of dill, lemongrass, anise and menthol. Plump and slightly liqueur-like with menthol and anise notes joined by quinine and pepper nuances on the finish.
Gilbert Pilgrim Red Washington $17
Malbec, grenache, pinot noir; nose of dried cranberry and pomegranate with white pepper and mint notes; flavors begin soft, round, smooth and balanced.
Domaine Moulinier Rouge ’12 France $13
70% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 5% Mourvèdre; Nice spice and garrigue on the nose, with a broad palate of ripe red fruit, with a bit of orange note on the finish. Smooth and soothing.
Lovo Cabernet Veneto ’15 Italy $11
A new Italian face on a familiar varietal, this surprisingly tasty cabernet is unoaked, bright, clean, and zesty.
La Quercia Montepulciano Riserva ’12 Italy $18
100% organic montepulciano from low-yield vines; rich, port-like nose of candied cherries that carry through on the expressive, rich, earthy palate; nice balance of fruit and acidity.
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Multi Grain A portion of the flour, water, salt and yeast is mixed together and fermented overnight before the final dough is mixed, giving the enzymatic activity a jump start that enhances flavor and shelf life. The final dough is made with more bread flour and fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours, then loaded up with flax, sunflower and sesame seeds. A great all around bread – $5/loaf.
Black Pepper Walnut – a bread introduced last summer that became new favorite. Made with bread flour as well as fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours then flavored with black pepper and toasted walnuts. Full of hearty whole grain goodness and flavors that will go well with those fall soups and stews – $5/loaf.
And for pastry this week…
Pumpkin Brioche- A rich brioche dough full of eggs, butter sugar and honey then flavored with pumpkin puree! As well as all those pumpkin spices that make pumpkin pie so delicious – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Quantity is limited so don’t wait to order – 2/$5
The Sound of Mauzac
Mauzac is an ancient grape varietal grown mainly in the Limoux and Gaillac districts of southwest France. It is the primary varietal in Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine originating with the monks of St. Hillaire Abbey in Limoux in the early 1500’s. These monks pioneered the style of secondary fermentation later refined as the “methode Champenoise,” even though the method wasn’t used there for at least another century. Under this method, still wines are made in the usual manner of fermentation and aging.
Then, however, when the wine is bottled, a dose of sugar and yeast is added to each bottle before corking, and the wines age in special racks for an extended period for “secondary fermentation.”In the Old Days, the bottles were mounted neck-first in a board, and hand-rotated a partial turn each day. Nowadays, the process is done in automatic containers (shown here holding cremant de Jura). This second fermentation creates bubbles of CO2 and clean flavors of bread and brioche in general, and in the case of mauzac, also some wonderful appley notes. The bottles are then reopened, yeast removed, recorked, further aged, and ready for market. read more
This week’s tasting includes a Blanquette de Limoux, made from 90% Mauzac. It’s a classic, it’s a great buy, and it’s delicious!
Mauzac, Sweet Mauzac
Mauzac tends to bud later and harvests later than most other grapes, so has historically been picked later in the fall than most other wine grapes. Then cold weather often slowed its fermentation even further, leading to the the Eureka moment that (OMD!) extended fermentation produces sparkling wines, as noted above. And as you know, the Wine World shifted on its Axis and has never been the Same.
The other common characteristic of later harvest grapes is higher sugar concentration. Therefore mauzac also has a long tradition, particularly in Gaillac, of being blended with other ancient grapes still in wide production in Gaillac (including red and white varietals found nowhere else) to produce a variety of sweet or late harvest wines. The natural acidity and apple flavors of mauzac make for a delightfully crisp and mouth-watering taste experience.
We mention this here because we were in Gaillac briefly in September, and very much enjoyed the wines. The accompanying photo is a very sweet, very delicious wine called “Ni Roux ni Vert,” another way of thinking about mauzac, i.e. “neither red nor green,” probably talking about grape skin color. Finding a source has turned into something of a Quest. Hopefully we will find some soon and share them with you, because everyone should have this experience. Stay tuned! more on Gaillac
On the Matter of Theater
I used to joke that the American Way could by summed up as “Anything worth doing is worth Doing to the Point of Gross and Ugly Excess.” And there certainly is at least a Grain of Truth there. Maybe that’s American. Maybe that’s Human.
Thirty-odd years ago, feeling a Big Hole in My Life and looking for Answers, I stumbled upon a little Zen Center in New Mexico with an old Japanese Teacher , Joshu Sasaki Roshi. I have a little paperback about him from sometime in the early 70’s, in which he said something like, “we have to realize that all of this is a kind of Theater, and we all have our Roles. But that doesn’t mean we need to get Caught Up in Them.” I practiced with Sasaki Roshi over several years. I picture him as a man who could Speak each Word as a Sumie painter Paints each Stroke of the Brush.
In these days and times, it is a useful idea to explore. It may be that the Inevitable Outcome of Instant Communication with Everyone at Once is the current manifestation of this Very Theater of our Everyday Life gone Completely Mad. Just like the Tower of Babel Myth (as Pat often suggests), everyone is talking at once and No One is Listening.
What are the necessary ingredients for a thoughtful, heart-to-heart conversation, the kind where everyone feels Heard, everyone feels Respect, everyone acts on the Deeper Reality that we are all in this Together, that we are all Doomed, we all Suffer, and that we all Depend on Each Other? These are questions we all need to wrestle with. We do not need to choose sides. We do not need to polarize or politicize (although it Is So Entertaining!). It’s perfectly okay to jump up and down like our chimp ancestors (duh, it’s a lot like Dancing!) and enjoy the Excitement. That’s Entertainment. It doesn’t mean Anything. We can play our roles Wholeheartedly, and fully enjoy them. But we don’t have to get caught up in them.
This week’s wine tasting
Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2015 Italy $13
Pale golden-tinged straw color; Botanical herbs and white stone fruit on the nose and palate, with good length and freshness;, finishing clean and medium-long.
Domaine Donjon Minervois Tradition ’11 France $16
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan; aged 12 months in stainless steel. Meaty and complex, with sweet, ripe red and black fruits, loads of white and black pepper, bay leaf and wild roses, it stays fresh and lively on the palate, with medium-bodied richness and length.
Catena Zapata Cab Franc San Carlos ’14 Argentina $19
Purple color with ruby tones. Elegant aromas of spices, garrigue, red berries, cassis, and raspberries, with layers of cedar. Mouth-filling and rich with flavors of cassis, raspberries and notes of black pepper and oregano. The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins.
Venta Morales Tempranillo ’15 Spain $9
Nice mulberry and cherry fruits, a hint of chalky minerality, and medium body, delivering luscious fruit and a delicious, soft and supple mouthfeel. As usual, terrific value!
Anteca Blanquette de Limoux France $12
90% Mauzac, with chenin blanc and chardonnay makes for a traditional racy, lively sparkling wine with fresh, crisp apple-pear flavors that pair beautifully with a wide range of finger foods and pre-dinner snacks. more
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Rosemary Olive Oil- made with bread flour and fresh milled white whole wheat, olive oil makes for a tender crumb and loads of garden fresh rosemary adds great flavor. This bread has a nice crisp crust and delightful soft crumb. It’s a great all around bread and makes fantastic toast – $5/loaf.
Buckwheat Rye – full of hearty whole grain goodness. Made with bread flour as well as fresh milled rye and buckwheat flour and just a little honey to help balance the flavor of the whole grains. A hearty artisan bread that will go well with meats or cheese – $5/loaf.
And for pastry this week…
Rum Raisin Brioche: A truly delightful pastry made with a rich brioche dough full of eggs and butter, chunks of almond paste, golden raisins soaked in rum, and a hint of fresh lemon zest for a nice zing. Then topped with a chocolate glaze before baking. These are my personal favorites. Quantity is limited so don’t wait to order – 2/$5
Cowboys of the Camargue
At Arles, the Rhone River divides into two branches, one flowing SSE and one flowing WSW. The two branches and the Mediterranean shore form the boundaries of a triangular estuary which is the Camargues, a river delta that covers nearly 360 sq mi. It is a wetland of grasses, etaings (lagoons), canals, and marshes, with a widely diverse ecosystem of over 400 species of birds as well as indigenous white horses and black bulls, both of which live sometimes on ranches, sometimes free to roam. While barging slowly through the Camague it is not unusual to see groups of white horses or bulls grazing the brush along the canal.
This vague sort of ownership is managed by the Gardians, a lineage of riders who live in traditional cabanes– thatched, windowless structures with bull horns over the door to ward off evil. The gardian’s traditional tools for herding have been a trident and very skillful riding. The Gardians, the horses, the bulls, and the Camargue form a cultural ecosystem that has survived more or less intact for hundreds of years. There is now a Musee de Camargue which chronicles their mutual and fascinating history. Read more
At this point we are all super-saturated with Analysis of the Candidates and their Positions. All those with actual Brains made up their minds a long time ago how they would vote, at least for President. So you have to ask yourself, what kind of person is unable to make useful distinctions between or among Candidates? Curiously, listening to them suggests not that they are Morons, exactly, but that they are somehow trying Really Hard to Make Sense of their Choices, and can’t quite Distill what they are seeing and reading into useful Data.
One recent conversation in our household explored the “WTF” observation that Their Confusion might be best explained by CBS top exec Les Moonves on the media Over-Coverage of All Things Trump over the past Year: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS!” If we extrapolate that rationale to the rest of the NewsSphere, we find ample motivation to spend more and more Air Time on Outrage and less and less time on Facts. Which is to say although we have all seen it coming for decades, this year we Crossed a Line in American News Coverage. Now there can be no doubt that the Main Function of “News” is not to provide, as Fox News so ironically promised) “Fair and Balanced” reporting, but rather, Which of Today’s Molehills Shall We Make Into a Mountain of $$?!
Stay Tuned; though now fully disgraced and discarded, Trump still has Full Media Attention, and Nation or no, Future or No, isn’t he still Just Their Dearest Boy…?! Read more
On the matter of Tea
A few years ago we attended a monthly Tea Tasting. It was held at the Lynden Library (I am not making this up!) by a charming young couple with a lot of knowledge and interest in Tea. Each month they would pour four or five different Teas, describing in detail where each one came from, its characteristics, and where it fit into the Vast Spectrum of Tea. It was interesting, engaging, and enjoyable. And, unfortunately, a Long Commute.
We were at it long enough to learn that Tea has its own Ancient Vocabulary; as with Wine, the study of Tea inevitably explores the relationships among each particular tea, location, season harvested, treatment after harvest, cutting technique, ageing process, and so on and so on. Cultivation of Tea goes back Millennia, maybe even further than Wine. Like wine it is Subtle and Complex, with layers of nuance most of us Westerners are untrained to distinguish.
So. We are interested in branching into the World of Tea here at the wine shop. At present we are thinking about a small group, maybe once a month, getting together to begin an Exploration of the Vast World of Tea. We don’t know what that will look like exactly. But we would like to know if any of you are interested in participating in this exploration. Please let us know by email or in person at the shop. If there is interest, we would like to kick this off sometime next Spring. Let us know if you are interested, thanks!
This week’s wine tasting
Ronan by Clinet Bordeaux Blanc ’14 France $15
80% sauv blanc, 20% semillon; fresh and appealing aromas of yuzu, grapefruit, white flowers, and passion fruit; flavors of citrus, white fruits and warm spices are fleshy yet crisp and clean.
Mas des Bressades Rosé Cuvée ’15 France $14
Spicy aromas and flavors of ripe red berries, orange, and pungent flowers; Nicely concentrated and supple, gaining weight with air, picking up bitter cherry and melon notes and a lingering red fruit liqueur quality.
Federalist Red ’14 Washington $16
Lavish use of oak brings out notes of smoke, black pepper, and spicy cardamom with lots of red fruit and a velvety texture.
Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Rompicollo ’12 Italy 93pts $18
Opulent, with a raisiny nuance to the ripe, soft red cherry, sweet spice, and herb aromas and flavors. Velvety, opulent, well balanced and smooth, with long, with lush, smooth tannins. Terrific buy!
Pomum Red ’11 Washington $19
Bordeaux blend; aromas of red fruit and exotic spices; On the palate, it shows black cherry, red cranberry and garrigue, fine elegant tannins and a long finish.
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Whole Wheat- made with about a quarter of fresh milled whole wheat and handful of fresh milled rye flour as well as bread flour. In addition to being made with a levain it benefits from a long overnight ferment before being shaped and baked. A nice hearty whole grain bread – $5/loaf.
Pain Normand – something new this week, a bread that brings in the flavor of french Normandy region which is known for its apples. Also made with some fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours as well as bread flour it is then mixed with apple cider as well as dried apples. A delicious artisan bread – $5/loaf.
Pastry this week is also something new –
Morning Buns. Based on a pastry from Tartine Bakery in San Fransisco and has been described as a cross between a cinnamon roll and a Breton kouign-amman. Made with the laminated pastry dough that is used for croissants, then rolled out and spread with a brown sugar cinnamon filling, rolled up and sliced into rolls and baked. Yum, Yum! Quantity is limited – 2/$5
You will all be interested to know that about a thousand years ago (late 1190), Guy de Foulques or Guy Foulques — yes, there is a surprising resemblance to “Guy Fawkes,”, n’est-ce pas?…Coincidence…?) was born in St. Gilles, France, son of a successful lawyer. At nineteen, he enlisted to fight the Moors in Spain, then studied law and rose to a position as secretary to King Louis IX, married, had two daughters, and, we presume, something of a career as a monarchist civil servant. Upon the death of his wife, he followed his father’s example and entered the Church as a priest…but, apparently qualified for a somewhat, um, “special track”…?
To wit, he became pastor of the Cathedral at Saint-Gilles in 1255. He was appointed Bishop of Le Puy in 1259, and soon after became Archbishop of Narbonne. His meteoric rise continued swiftly to make him a Cardinal in December 1261, and then on to become Pope (Clement IV) very shortly thereafter. Back in those charming medieval days, as Feudalism was struggling toward something like Nationalism, Church and State were Dancing the way Corporation and State Dance now, and this guy seems to have been, shall we say, something of a Player.
These days, St. Gilles, located in the Rhone Delta, is a quiet town on the canal route from Aigues-Morte to Beaucaire. A short distance from Arles, but definitely a bit remote like Maguelone, it seems a strange place to build a big cathedral. However, considering the Feudal times, perhaps the Camargues provided a network of natural Moats, and afforded protection for the Medieval Church and its Holdings. In any case, these days St. Gilles is quiet and a bit soothing, a smallish town on the border between the vaguely wild estuary that is the Camargues and the faster-paced Costieres de Nimes to the north, and Marseilles and Provence to the east.
This week’s Rosé
It all began innocently enough. I mean, like most of the other wine shops on the Planet, we have been carrying Bodegas Breca’s Garnacha de Fuego for many years. You all know it as a mouth-filling, almost chewy, rich and flavorful wine made from what must be a vast area of old vines Garnacha. And it always way over-delivers for its modest price. So it is a wine we tend to keep in stock or at least revisit on a regular basis. And since we were down to one bottle, I ordered more. As one does.
So today it was something of a surprise to find that somehow the order had gone off track, because today’s delivery accidentally brought a case of Garnacha de Fuego Rosé! Huh? They make a rosé? Who knew?
Ever adapting to the Flow of Reality, I thought, hmm, could be interesting, so okay, we’ll keep it and see how it goes. A little research revealed that this little rosé, made from Old Vines Garnacha like its deep and dark sibling, earned 90 points from Parker’s Wine Advocate, which called it “Absolutely spectacular.” Okay, it has my full attention, and we are looking forward to tasting it with you all this weekend! Who knows, might be Awesome!
Meltdown at the Not-So-OK Corral
For those of us of a Certain Age, if we look deeply, we find a certain amount of Confusion about, you know, Frankenstein. Because, as we all know, somehow it was the “Monster,” brought back from the Dead, a little confused, a little retarded, yet with a certain clumsy Sweetness, who was targeted as the Villain. I mean, does Anyone remember what happened to Dr. Frankenstein, he whose unbounded Hubris loosed the hapless Monster on the World? We are left only with the image of Long Lines of People With Torches on Dark Hillsides, Bent on Revenge for Violations they, like the Monster they pursued, could only Dimly perceive.
The Relevance of Mary Shelley’s creation for Our Moment is that here we are 200 years later, still unable to distinguish between the Scientist who created the Monster and the Monster itself, who throughout the story maintains a certain Tragic Innocence.
In a sense the the current– and Long, Long, Long Overdue– Meltdown of Donald Trump as a Candidate for (arguably) Leader of the Free World has a certain Poignancy, putting us collectively in something of a Dilemma. After all, he now represents BOTH the Scientist and the Monster. Should we Lament the Hubris of the Egocentric Creator of this bit of Global Theater, or should we feel Compassion for the Child-like Innocence of his Catastrophic Ignorance? However it turns out, it is High Theater. High Theater Indeed…!
This week’s wine tasting
Garnacha de Fuego Rose ’15 Spain 90pts $9
Absolutely spectacular rosé; light, almost neon-pink color and delicate strawberry and cranberry fruit notes, with a hint of pomegranate. It is fresh, lively, ripe, medium-bodied, and has more texture and length than one usually expects in a rosé.
Nera La Novella ’15 Italy $15
This unusual white (Nebbiolo, Rossola, Chardonnay, Manzoni) offers surprising complexity; fruity and intense, typical of Nebbiolo grapes; dry flavor with hints of exotic fruits; engaging, tasty, and persistent.
Renegade Red ’13 Washington $11
Nicely crafted blend of Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc; shows lots of red and black fruits, scents of loamy minerality, and fine grained tannins that are matched with balanced acidity.
Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico ’14 Italy $18
Fermented with ambient yeasts and aged in cement for up to eight months to rest and lock in its fruity freshness; easy palate of bright berry; silky and seductive mouthfeel.
Tres Picos Garnacha ’14 Spain 92pts $15
Heady, exotically perfumed bouquet of ripe berries and incense, with a smoky minerality and spice. Vibrant flavors of raspberry liqueur and cherry-cola show power, depth and finesse with velvety tannins.