Nope, not open this Friday, either!
Well, the good news is that Ryan is back from France, and next week we will resume our regular Friday hours from 4-7, including the latest loaf of fresh-baked bread from Janice’s wood-fired oven. The bad news is that we will not be open this Friday, November 1. We will, however, be open the usual hours on Saturday, November 2 from 2-6, and look forward to seeing you then!
For the third week in a row we will be featuring a wine from one of our favorite French wineries, La Rocaliere located in Lirac in the southern Rhone Valley near Avignon. This week’s wine is their Lirac Blanc, a blend of grenache blanc and clairette, two varietals that may be new to you.
click on link above for lovely intro to their website…and turn your sound on
Grenache Blanc is thought to be a mutation of Grenache Noir, having originated in northeast Spain centuries ago before going to France, where it has flourished in the Languedoc and the Rhone Valley, especially in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (across the Rhone from Lirac). We found it both in Spain and France, with slightly different characteristics depending on where it is grown, and really liked it in both places. In both countries it is a major component of aromatic white blends, adding crisp acidity, medium to full-bodied texture, and slightly floral components. It can show pleasing notes of green apple, pears, cider, honeydew melon, white peaches, golden raisins, lemon, dill, white flowers, or sage. It is now grown also in Washington, and I predict it will become increasingly popular in the coming years.
For those of you who may have been away on another planet for the past year, your attention is invited to our beautiful, newly remodeled Island Library, which recently reopened even though it is not quite fully completed or furnished. It is far enough along to earn lots of oohs and ahs from visitors, though. This project has literally been years in the planning, fundraising, and construction, and lots of Islanders played helpful roles, beginning with the tireless volunteers of FOIL (Friends of the Island Library), who saw the need, made a plan, raised money, put out the specs for bid, and stewarded the process through every step. So hats off, my friends, and Three Cheers for FOIL on a job well done!
artist’s conception, above
Also, kudos to Mark Sexton and his crew, who did a great job including lots of necessary adjustments as the demolition phase revealed a host of surprises about the original structure, and to KC of Island Quality Painting, who donated the labor for the entire interior painting. And let’s also raise our collective glasses to the entire community of volunteers who moved, dug, scraped, cleaned, stacked, unstacked, schlepped, measured, sawed, nailed, caulked, sanded, painted, shingled, swept, installed, and otherwise donated their time and talents to this massive community effort!
Whatcom County Library System will be moving in new shelving and books in the next week or two, and the Library will hold its Grand Opening party on Sunday, November 17. Mark your calendars!
This Week’s Tasting
La Rocaliere Lirac Blanc ’11 France $16
Grenache Blanc and Clairette blend. Subtle, elegant floral aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, and verbena. Rich and round on the palate, with wonderful notes of fresh citrus.
Montes Classic Malbec ’11 Chile 88pts $11
from nearly 100-year old vines in the Colchagua valley; ripe dark cherry and creme de cassis on the nose while the palate offers ripe, chewy, dark cherry and bilberry fruit encased in fine tannins and a pure vanilla-y finish that is satisfying.
Terres D’Artagnan Gascogne ’10 France $9
Alluring nose of black raspberry, flowers, and garrigue leads into a very juicy, round and harmonious palate with velvety, soft, ripened tannins and fresh acidity.
Scarafone Montecucco Rosso ’08 Italy $12
90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A rustic Italian red with aromas and flavors of dried cherry and dark blackberry, with a somewhat toasty character that includes bramble and dried herbs with a hint of leather.
Vin du Lac Les Amis Riesling ’10 Washington $8
A blend of riesling (green apple aromas and flavors), Muscat (honeysuckle), and Gewurztraminer (earthy spiciness) that combine into a delightful, aromatic, and refreshing wine.
Coal Hard Cash
As we mentioned a few weeks ago, this year’s Whatcom County Council election, in which people are already casting their ballots by mail, might have global implications because of the proposed Coal Port development at Cherry Point (yes, folks, we can see it from here!). Curiously, the Coal Money we all expected to see in the race has not seemed to materialize…until just a few days ago! As a final campaign finance window was about to close, about $150k suddenly showed up in the coffers of Save Whatcom, a brand new PAC backed almost entirely by Big Coal interests. Their first nonsense-filled flyer hit our mailbox yesterday. Never mentioning coal, the message focuses on the usual job-creation mythology industry has been using for decades to squeeze sweetheart tax benefits from unwitting communities (more on this below).
(click on photos for better resolution)
Brief Rant on the Job Creation Myth
For most of the last fifty years, businesses have perpetuated the myth that local communities reap such huge benefits when businesses decide to locate there that communities should offer huge subsidies to attract them, including tax breaks, environmental compromises, or special prices on public utilities. The supposed community benefits are “jobs,” which are only a “benefit” in the very rare case when such a business arrival coincides precisely with the skills of the currently unemployed labor pool in the community. But in the general case, the entire infrastructure of the host community will have to expand to accommodate the new workers, their families, their utility needs, their cars— i.e., the phenomenon we all know as sprawl, which most rational people would agree is something most devoutly to be eschewed. So the last thing a community should do is subsidize business with sweet deals! Look for variations on the “business is doing us a favor by locating here so hey, let’s sell them our only cow for a handful of genetically engineered beans!” argument in your mailbox any minute.
The Really Scary part of all of this is that lately a whole new crop of politicians (aka “Tea Party”) has spread across the land who actually believe this nonsense. This is the knee-slapping and gut-wrenching Reality of our present time, as evidenced by the recent government shutdown: these people actually believe the idiotic rhetoric that the Republican Party and Fox News have been putting out for the past twenty years! How scary is that? Read more on job myths
Foggy Island Mushroom Bloom
It’s been the foggiest week I can remember around here, most of the day, every day for the past week. Cold, dark, and damp. A little trying for some of us, but as it turns out GREAT for mushrooms. A walk through Otto Farm yields an amazing array of exotic fungi, but even in our own neighborhood I found all of these (below) just today. Our forest-supporting, underground fungi thrive in this weather, making their presence known by sending up mushrooms –sort of “fungus flowers”– or “fruiting bodies,” of certain fungal organisms; their role is to produce spores and release them, after which they can melt back into the earth (as in last photo). Many, of course, are delicious to eat; others are deadly poisonous; and still others can turn you into Alice chasing the White Rabbit.
This week’s tasting
Cloudlift Cellars Updraft ’11 Washington $17
Tom Stangeland’s beautiful interpretation of a classic White Bordeaux (sauvignon blanc and semillon) with the added weight and ripeness that Washington’s climate usually delivers.
Eguren Protocolo Rosado ’12 Spain $8
Bright, mineral-accented aromas of redcurrant and strawberry, with incisive citrus fruit and red berry flavors that gain weight with air. Finishes dusty and long, with lingering spiciness.
Borsao Berola ’09 Spain 90pts $13
(70% garnacha, 20% syrah, 10% cabernet sauvignon; Pungent, smoky aromas of dark berry preserves, cherry pit and spicy licorice; broad and fleshy palate of cherry, blackcurrant, and a touch of succulent herbs.
Palama Negroamaro ’10 Italy $10
Elegantly expansive, rich and robust, with silky mouthfeel, aromas of violets, plums, fresh ground pepper, and palate of blackberry jam with accents of cinnamon, leather, tobacco and smoke.
La Rocaliere Lirac Rouge ’10 France $16
Equal parts grenache, mourvedre, and syrah. Clay hillsides and serene aging in cement tanks yield this
inky purple wine with deeply pitched aromas and flavors of cherry-cola, licorice and violets.
Paris can wait
As it turns out, at the last minute we had to cancel our planned three-week trip to France this past Monday morning. It had been a hectic week following up on the previous week’s “near miss,” and though the docs were okay with our going, and we were fully packed for departure, unpleasant drug side effects made it just too stressful. As a result we are staying home and taking it easy instead. Everything is okay, and though we are disappointed to miss this trip after so much planning, we are relieved to have some uncommitted time at home, surrounded by the “warm web of familiar faces” that you are all a part of and that nourishes and sustains us. So to all of you a hearty thanks for being in our web! (note: click on images for larger versions)
October hours still limited
Under the auspices of taking it easy and being good to ourselves the next few weeks, we will not be opening the wine shop on the next two Fridays. We WILL, however, be open as usual the next two Saturdays, and hope you all can drop by. This also means that, contrary to last week’s announcement, Pat and I will be hosting on Saturday as usual, not, as we announced last week, our volunteer guest hosts, known to all of you as simply “The Judys.” Instead we have invited them to see if there is another time this fall when they would be willing to add their luster and energy to a wine shop afternoon. We are hoping there will be, and will keep you in the loop as plans develop.
la Rocaliere Re-Re-discovered!
We did make it to France two years ago about this time of year, and very much enjoyed our visit. One of the highlights, which I have mentioned numerous times, was our visit to la Rocaliere, a small family winery run by two sisters in Lirac, just northwest of Avignon. I really liked the wines and was especially impressed with the fact that none of the wines were aged in oak. Rather, the whites were done in stainless steel and the reds were aged in large, coated cement tanks. So when we got back from that trip, I was keen to get these wines into the shop for all of us to enjoy.
As it turned out, there was at that time a small distributor carrying the wines in Washington and we brought some in; but soon after that distributor went out of business. Then a second distributor carried them briefly, but they were unable to reach a sustainable agreement with the winery. Then a third distributor carried them briefly and we were able to get an order delivered last spring while they carried the wines. And now just in the last month or so I happened upon the wines again, now handled by a yet a fourth distributor in a mere two years! For those of you who know the wines, we now have in stock the rouge, the blanc, and the Tavel rose (Tavel and Lirac are adjacent villages). This weekend we will be pouring the rose; next weekend we will pour the blanc and the rouge…so mark your calendars!
Resveratrol, wine, chocolate, and health
Resveratrol is a particularly potent polyphenol antioxidant found in certain fruits and vegetables including especially grapes, which produce resveratrol as a defense against fungi. It may be why many French people with poor diets who drink wine have better cardiovascular health than their diets might suggest. Resveratrol may increase the lifespan in human cells, reduces oxidative stress damage to your cardiovascular system by neutralizing free radicals, and helps support your body’s natural defenses. This good news for wine lovers has now been expanded into good news for chocolate eaters as well. A recent study sponsored by Hershey’s (hmmm…) shows that dark chocolate also is a good source of resveratrol, which works tirelessly to round up those free radicals and keep them off the street. All of this is very encouraging for those of us of a certain age who keep learning that we’re supposed to avoid more and more of the things we like to stay healthy. A little good chocolate and good wine can not only help preserve your health; it can also make you happier! Read more.
This week’s wines
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.
la Rocaliere Tavel Rose ’12 France $13
Scents of dark berries, cherry and licorice, with a floral accent. Firm and structured, displaying bitter cherry and floral pastille flavors and a hint of bitter herbs, finishing with good power and length.
Villa Luisa Chianti ’11 Italy $9
Satisfying well beyond its humble price point, showing red fruits and violets on the nose, with a smooth, soft palate.
Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon ’10 Chile 90pts $10
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.
Palacios Rioja Crianza la Montesa ’09 Spain $17
65% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo picked by hand; well-defined strawberry, Morello and shortcake-scented bouquet infused with fennel and licorice; medium-bodied with supple tannins, and an elegant, caressing finish that speaks of its place.
We’ve all seen the movies and the images of The Big One that may be Out There somewhere with our planet’s number on it. We are here at all largely because the Really Big One 66 million years ago dropped by and snuffed out 99% of extant species, giving our tiny mammal ancestors some empty niches to call their own. We feel sad for the dinosaurs, but really, Darwinian creatures that we are, we are primarily concerned about our own survival, as individuals and as a species. I do confess that I might feel somewhat comforted if I knew the whole human race was going extinct if I new that, you know, puppies, flowers, and bees would survive…how about you?
The reason I am bringing this up is because last Friday night at home after wine shop I had the very scary and sobering experience of a brief “TIA,” (transient ischemic attack), aka “mini-stroke.” It only lasted a few seconds, but it definitely got my attention. Having spent most of Friday night in the ER, and most of this week having tests to sort out causes and strategies, I find that my entire perspective on Life, the Universe, and Everything has changed and will likely never be the same. I suspect the same is true for all of us who survive “near misses” of any kind, surviving any life-threatening disease, accident, or catastrophe. I am grateful to be here, grateful for all of you, and grateful for this wonderful life that we share in this beautiful place. At various times this week I have thought, “yes, this is just where I want to be right now.” It’s a good feeling. As an old friend said recently, “we are all lucky ducks!”
Another year, another Lullaby
Many of you were lucky enough to be with us a year ago this past August when our friend and winemaker extraordinaire Virginie Bourgue (at right in photo) came to the wine shop to pour wines from her own winery, Lullaby. We first met Virginie shortly after we opened the wine shop in 2005 when she was the winemaker for Bergevin Lane in Walla Walla, and we always enjoy it when our paths cross. Unfortunately, schedules did not permit her to visit for a tasting this summer. However, I just received a shipment of her current wines, and we will be tasting two of them this weekend. She is a very accomplished French winemaker who has brought with her to Washington the sensibility and skills of letting the grapes become the wines they want to be.
This is one of the primary philosophical differences between Old World and New World styles of winemaking, and one we have been increasingly learning to appreciate in recent years; New World style tends to over-engineer each wine to achieve a particular profile, while Old World style is more oriented toward evoking the unique expression of fruit and vintage that is present in this year’s harvest from this vineyard. For example, many winemakers in America, including Washington, age all or nearly all of their wines in new oak barrels, while European winemakers often use the same barrels over and over, year after year, so the effect of oak on the wine’s development does not mask the unique characteristics (for better or for worse!) of this particular year’s vintage. To some degree I am reflecting on these things because at this moment I am previewing Virginie’s Lullaby Rouge, and finding it very agreeable indeed, and much more reminiscent of favorite wines from France than favorite wines from Washington. So there is a definite Old World stylistic expression in Virginie’s wines that I very much enjoy, and I think you will, too!
Coming next week: Judy, Judy, Judy!
Believe it or not, I have just learned, while researching this paragraph, that Cary Grant never actually said the line, “Judy, Judy, Judy” in a movie. Supposedly that myth was initiated by comedian Larry Storch during a night club act, in the middle of a Grant impersonation, when actress Judy Garland walked in and he ad-libed the line. However, Cary Grant DID (supposedly) say “Susan, Susan, Susan” in Bringing Up Baby (1938) (sorry, could not find a video clip). Even though the line was never said in any of Grant’s movies, Storch’s impression inexplicably stuck and was often used by other impressionists. Who knew?
What is important here is that we are off to France on Monday, and Ryan is off to France on Sunday, leaving neither of us to open the wine shop the next two weekends. However, fear not dear friends, because Judy Arntsen and Judy Olson have volunteered to open the shop for the next two Saturdays during the usual hours, 2-6. PLEASE NOTE THE SHOP WILL NOT BE OPEN THE NEXT TWO FRIDAYS, October 18 and 25, but WILL BE OPEN THE TWO SATURDAYS, October 19 and 26. We are grateful to Judy and Judy for taking on this burden, and it promises to be a lot of fun. We will remind you again about this next week!
This week’s tasting
Famega Vinho Verde ’12 Portugal $8
Refreshing, crisp with a tingly sparkle and notes of tart apple tartness and delicate citrus; pleasant and mellow, it’s the perfect accompaniment to fresh seafood, salads, and mild cheeses.
Lullaby Rosé de Virginie ’12 Washington $18
(67% mourvedre, 33% grenache) Virginie’s version of Provencal rose; light, crisp, delicate, and refreshing, with just the right balance of fruit, acidity, and minerality.
Borsao Garnacha ’12 Spain $9
Inky purple. Aromas and flavors of blueberry, blackberry and bitter cherry are brightened by peppery spices. Concentrated and velvety in texture, with good finishing breadth and cling. An outstanding value.
Palama Primitivo ’11 Italy $13
Floral aromatics mix with notes of tobacco, citrus, and wild herbs; ripe, fresh, lush, and bright, with notes of dark anise, cedar, and blackberry confit.
Lullaby Rouge de Virginie Washington $27
A luscious blend of both 2009 and 2010 merlot and cab, with earthy notes of black berries, creamy vanilla, forest floor, and eucalyptus on a voluptuous texture.