This is the fifth successful time I’ve completed the Master Cleanse. For me this time around I needed to hit the re-set button after months of indulgent eating, drinking wine for dinner, truck stop food, and habits verging on early onset diabetes. Sometimes that is what happens when you are in love and nightly meals include socializing and drinking and saying “yes” to all things, and then having a second helping. (I think they call this “happy weight,” which is great. For a while.) I was eating what my main man was eating, and that is just too much. And I was feeling it. Not just with the weight I gained, but the emotional low of making poor decisions and the general sluggishness of my erratic blood sugar. I love the Master Cleanse for the mental clarity it gives me. It is so nice to take a break from food. I suffer from food guilt, eat when I’m bored, and have a tendency to overeat in social settings. Sound familiar? The Cleanse helps to re-focus my good food intentions. Over the 21 days, I lost over ten pounds, but the reason for the Cleanse is not to “diet” but rather I enjoy the experience as a personal, spiritual exercise. I love reading about the original reasons for the Cleanse and using the guidelines as a wonderful tool to help direct my own behaviors. It is nice to have a little reminder every once in a while about health and diet. Read more about the Master Cleanse.
Days are getting shorter and the crisp morning air is just a hint at the encroaching shift of season. My northern tundra has been experiencing fairly mild weather so far, and the warm days beckon for something (wine) cold (wine) to drink. And that’s chilled white wine for me. Here are three of my recent favorites:
2011 Mer Soleil “Silver” Unoaked Chardonnay From the Wagner family who has been making the wines of the Caymus label in the Napa Valley since 1972, the endeavor of Mer Soleil meant finding & planting vineyards in other California regions, and discovering the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County had the best land for chardonnay. Cool, cool mornings, fog and great sea-air breezes add additional alchemical elements to wonderful chardonnay fruit. Add a grove of lemon trees that surround the vineyards, and the crisp citrus flavors balance out the refreshing minerality. I think of ocean-wet sand that mingles with white stones. The other elements I love about this is the bright salinity that pops with an unexpected effervescence and acidity, but that’s not all: I admit chardonnay is one of my least favorite white wines, I think because the varietal was overdone for so long, especially in California. Have you heard a chardonnay called a “butter bomb” due to overoaking? It happens sometimes that oak becomes more important than the actual fruit, which I find extremely unfortunate. Continue reading
[Yesterday before we headed north into the wilds of Oregon wine country, I put 3 pounds of pork butt (or shoulder, if you prefer) and a bottle of Mexi-Coke in the crockpot. That’s all! For dinner we had pulled-pork tacos with chili verde sauce in corn tortillas with fresh salsa and guacamole. It turned out perfect. I’m definitely making this again, but maybe with Dr. Pepper or Root Beer next time. Mexi-Coke is available in a glass bottle and is made with real sugar, not corn syrup, in Mexico. We drank Line Dry Rye, a pale ale from Oakshire Brewing Company in Eugene, OR. After a day of wine sometimes one embraces beer. And a nap.]
Our first stop was Beaux Frères just outside of Newberg, Oregon, surrounded by the Dundee Hills to the south, and the Chehalem Mountains to the north and east. I had been here before in 2010 during a Spring Break trip, and was looking forward to tasting their wines again. When I was studying for my certified sommelier exam last December, my friend Amy came over to pour a blind taste test for me. I gave her my bottles to choose from, and I had the hardest time figuring out which varietal she picked for my glass. Pinot Noir can sometimes be identified in the glass without having to be tasted since their appearance reveals a lot just by looking–they tend to be light-bodied, gossamer wines that show off like rubies that can easily be seen through. It was the Beaux Frères 2009 Willamette Valley “unfined and unfiltered” release that I couldn’t identify. The wine was full-bodied, voluptuous, and nearly brick red in color. It threw me for a loop. It was so lovely. Most Pinot Noir is often lost on me because my personal preferences tend toward more integrated, lush, earthy and full-bodied wines. They tend to whine too much with antiseptic tartness that puckers the mouth like rhubarb and cranberry cooked without sugar. It is not my favorite varietal. But that 2009 Beaux Frères was marvelous in its robust elegance. Continue reading
I’m lucky enough to live on the main thoroughfare through the Napa Valley, so I don’t have to go too far for great wines. I’ve taken my time settling in and making some connections, getting a job, and starting a new life here in wine country. So now, it’s back to the blog, direct from wineries in the Napa Valley!
Today I’m tasting at Hall Winery about a mile from my little house. My pal Matt Baack at Angle 33 just made a series of Wine Thermals for Hall, and I was inspired to pay them a visit. This is my first time here. I know nothing about their wines . . . yet.
I do like wineries with a vision. Hall practices organic farming on all their properties, gravity feed their harvest fruit for gentle maceration, and rely on native yeasts for fermentation. A new tasting room facility is being built with Gold LEED certification, and wine-making practices regard the best integration of soil types, fruit yields and climatic variations to capture the essence of each vineyard space.
Sourced from fruit in the Alexander Valley, just north and west from St. Helena, the 2011 T Bar T Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is aged in stainless steel and neutral oak. I loved a little oak on sauvignon blanc, it elevates the wine into the realms of elegant roundness, soothes rough acidic edges and balances out the great fruit. This wine sings of pineapple, ripe apricots, Meyer lemons, limes, meringue, a tinge of honey. Floral notes abound with honeysuckle and jasmine. It’s delicious. Great acidity lifts the ripe fruit and brightens the mouth with each sip. Alexander Valley tends to be a few degrees warmer than the Napa Valley, so the fruit shows off its ripe flavor profile on the bouquet, and in the mouth. I bought a bottle for home–it’s too hot for anything red right now. Except lipstick. And shoes. Continue reading
Now I live in California, just north of Napa on a little dirt road where I walk amongst vineyards rows at sunset. Life is pretty good. In March I moved from Missoula, Montana, traveled to Italy and now I’ve been in wine country for about a month surrounded by the spring bud break and the cool nights. Moving is a major transition in life. I feel bad about not writing more, but my priorities have been finding a job and getting back on my feet. This post continues the last few weeks of my trip to Italy:
It’s Friday afternoon on one of the last days I will spend in Montana, in Bozeman, Montana, before I drive away to the heart of wine country: St. Helena, California. And I get to spend the rest of my day with one of my best wine buddies, Mr. Courtney Bowman. I married Courtney and his wife Heidi last August, so we are friends for life. We have plans in Napa in May to see some rock bands and hang out again. Courtney works for Bronken’s Distributing out of Gallatin County, so his line-up is always enviable. We always compare tasting notes, talk food, and drink some major wine. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Wine is always flowing. Continue reading
The rose bushes that you see at the end of vineyard rows are not just for good looks. Giulian at Enoteca di Piazza in Montalcino explained to me that roses, being the sensitive plants they are, actually help gauge overall vineyard health. Roses can reflect potential damage of over- or under-watering, fertilizer applications or weather damage. Carefully observing the rose bushes can help winemakers make important decisions regarding changes that may need to be made in the vineyard or in the specific row. The roses are like a vineyard signal, showing damage first. And give the winemaker a little time to alter treatments or irrigation schedules. If the roses are thriving, the vineyard is thriving, too.
After my tempestuous arrival to my hillside accommodation, after food and wine, and a good’s night sleep, I walked through morning mist and fog the short distance to the villa of Colognole to meet Cesare Coda Nunziante to talk and taste wine. I first met Cesare in Missoula, Montana, at Summit Beverage’s Best of Book back in 2011. I loved the 2007 Chianti Rufina so much I bought an entire case at a great price, wholesale at $11 per bottle. A case of wine is great to have on hand–bottles make great hostess gifts, or for last-minute dinner parties, and for emergencies after a rough day. Having fine wine in my house makes it feel like home. I think I still have a bottle or two in my collection.
The region of Chianti Rufina is not far from Florence, towards the east in the rugged hills of the Sieve River valley. In this wine growing region there are only about 20 producers in the DOCG compared to the 300 in Chianti Classico. The cooler microclimate and higher elevation create greater temperature swings between day and night that impart higher concentrations of acidity and lend a more vibrant structure to the wines. Soils are rocky with shale and clay, and vineyards are planted facing south. Continue reading
Now is the time I get to relive my trip to Italy. Days of wine and food. Laughing on the back of a scooter through Rome. Hiking the hills of Chianti Rufina. Rain in Pienza. It was challenging to write while getting to experience so much. My early days were spent near Alba, first at Boroli, and then at Vietti.
I sell Vietti wine in Montana, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but fortunately with great importers and distributors, super wine comes our way. I’ve written about their wines before on GoodTasteBook, and getting a chance to see the actual winery is always a dream come true. Vietti is owned and operated by Lucca Currado, whose mother’s family named Vietti started the winery four generations ago. The oldest bottle dates back to 1851, and before that barrels of wine were sold directly to area osteria and tratteria, local cafes and taverns, so making wine has been in this family for a long time. When I arrived, Lucca was exploring the eastern markets of China like Marco Polo, and his gracious wife, Elena, played host to me during my few days in Alba. When the heat was not working in the apartment at Castiglione Falletto, Elena’s brother, Umberto, opened a room at Vincafe in Alba for my stay. Italian hospitality is something similar to magic, beyond gracious and amazing. They treat you like a principessa. I am still dreaming about the ceci soup (chick pea soup) with wild rice and hazelnuts. Continue reading
In 1996, the Boroli family reinvested their publishing business into the wine world. The third son, Achille, took over the trade. Another brother, an architect, designed the winery, reusing the oak barrel staves for the building’s exterior, and the flooring is from the beautiful ends of oak barrels. The older brother started Briko, the ski equipment company that sponsors Lindsey Vonn. And still the younger brother is a doctor. A successful family, no doubt. And yet, Achille took the time to collect me from the train station and later situate me at my next winery.
The farm I visited is situated in the heart of Barolo, just outside of Alba, where another popular food industry often fills the air with aroma of warm butter and melted chocolate. The headquarters of Ferrero Rocher calls Alba home, as does its subsidiary Nutella. The valley floor is planted with hazelnut trees. These wines are in good company, and let’s not forget the truffles that are sought out like rare gold deposits. In the hills of Castiglione Falletto, a mountain village with precarious streets and an imposing castle, the winery sits with a panoramic view of the valley. Most of the surrounding towns are mountain towns, built in ancient times for protection. The castles used lights to communicate with each other in times of invasion or for other necessities.
All Barolo cru vineyards face south, south-west, or south-east. In the case of this particular wine, the grape varietal is 100% Nebbiolo. The vines can be planted on northern exposures, and in some cases, especially in really hot summers, Continue reading