Tuesday, February 26, 2008


"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne."

Then come to Tampa, Florida this weekend with Rupert Holmes and a couple of winedreamers.

The seafood should be plentiful and chilled white wine or frosty beverages will be mandatory.

What follows is the world's best pina colada recipe.

6 oz Bacardi Black rum
8 oz Cream of coconut (Coco Lopes)
8 oz Pineapple juice
Wedge of Pineapple

Mixing instructions:
Combine Rum, Cream of Coconut and Pineapple Juice in a regular sized blender. Blend on low speed to mix liquid ingredients. Fill blender to top with ice. Blend on high speed until ice is grainy. Pour into hurricane glass and garnish with pineapple wedge.

Come with us and escape!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Too Much Of A Good Thing, A Good Thing?

The first time I tried a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, I was struck by it's floral and citrus aromas. The bottle was opened at a local restaurant and was super chilled, masking the prominent yellow grapefruit flavor and residual heat.

Last night, the bottle we opened from our wine fridge was close to 55 degrees. It seemed more vibrant & crisp, with an over-powering citrus burst. We decided to quick chill the bottle in ice and water, and yet, the complexity we enjoyed on our first tasting was missing.

Don't get me wrong, I love the flavor of grapefruit, but this 2006 vintage pummeled my taste buds into submission. You could hear them cry, "Uncle". This was definitely too much of a good thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What A Difference A Year Makes

Traditionally, a one year anniversary was marked by a gift of paper. As we are communicating via electronic media, I will celebrate a year of writing this blog with the modern recommendation, a clock, to mark the passage of time.

Ancient people used natural signs that they could observe to mark the passage of time: the sun, the moon and the seasons. The very first calendars, dating back to 25,000 BC, were notched sticks, reindeer bones, or tusks of mammoths, which counted the days between phases of the moon. It was also important to track the seasons so they would know when the weather would change for planting or harvesting, or when to expect migrating herds.

Today, few people wear watches or buy clocks as they have iPods, cell phones and laptops that tell them the date and time.

Here are a few bits of prose regarding the passage of time.

"To live in this world

you must be able to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes, to let it go."

- Mary Oliver

"Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

- Will Rogers

Celebrate each day. Make the most of the time you are given because I’ve heard it said the only difference between a rut and a grave is depth.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Zero to Two Hundred with No Right Turns

Watching televised sports is really not my “thing” although; I enjoy attending live basketball or baseball games. The Super Bowl, to me, represents very expensive and sometimes noteworthy advertising. Marketing during sporting events reaches its pinnacle in the world of NASCAR auto racing. Without the diverting landscapes common in Formula One events, viewers instead watch logo plastered cars drive for miles in a circle.

The hard packed sand between Daytona Beach and its northern neighbor Ormond Beach was the site of the first world-record automobile speed trials in 1902. On December 12, 1947, the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing met and named Bill France Sr. as its first president. NASCAR has since grown to become the second-most popular professional sport in terms of ratings, ranking just behind the NFL. It has millions of fans who purchase over $3 billion annually in licensed products. These fans are considered the most brand-loyal in all of sports and as a result, Fortune 500 companies sponsor NASCAR more than any other governing body. From Sprint (how appropriate) to Viagra, there is a wide variety of sponsors. Coors, Budweiser, and Jim Beam have already joined the race. Maybe it is time for wine to meet a new large demographic.

According to my research, in 2002, wine advertising in the United States grew to an estimated $145 million. In contrast, beer spending was $953.4 million while spirits companies spent $406.7 million. While most wineries can’t afford to spend the kind of money a national campaign costs, a large conglomerate like Constellation Brands, could send wine sales to the moon!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Freud and Wine Critics

Sigmund Freud concluded that in the drama of man's mind, the main players were the Id: The root of our impulses; the Ego: Negotiatiator with the id and pleaser of the superego; and the Superego: Keeper of the straight and narrow.

Each of these characters has its own idea of the final outcome. Their struggles are fueled by powerful motives, and each one is out for itself.

The id contains all of our most basic animal and primitive impulses. It is driven by a force Freud called the libido, the collective energy of life's instincts and it demands satisfaction. The id pushes you through life and without it we'd die, or at the very least, we'd be really boring.

The ego's main function is to mediate between the id's demands and reality.

While the ego negotiates with the id, the superego expects your ego to be strong and effective, it is your conscience.

Enter the ego of wine critic, E. Robert Parker. In the Atlantic Monthly article, The Million-Dollar Nose, William Langewiesche wrote:

"As wines rise and fall on the basis of Parker's judgments, and as producers respond to his presence, the industry worldwide is moving in an unexpected direction, toward denser, darker, and more dramatic wines. It would be simplistic to believe that the movement is entirely due to Parker: he may just be its most effective agent."

"That is one of the ironies of Parker's role. He regrets the skittishness of the market. He opposes speculation of any kind. But inevitably he fuels it." Experienced readers of his publication, The Wine Advocate, can calibrate their palates against his and many readers probably just look at his wine scores. For those in the business, maintaining the "elite" wine image is important for commercial reasons. With a bit of tape and a copy machine, retailers can alter his scores and tasting notes for their promotional literature.

He is quoted as saying, "I don't like manipulation, compromise, or interventionistic winemaking - unless something goes wrong. I believe that the responsibility of the winemaker is to take that fruit and get it into the bottle as the most natural and purest expression of that vineyard, of the grape varietal or blend, and of the vintage."

I feel that as he was once an attorney for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore, he knows how to vacillate between regret and arrogance about his influence.

The Shin Buddhists believe that life is a bumpy ride, but that the universe is fundamentally good; it is our ego-driven life that causes most of the suffering but luckily our self-centeredness can be transformed into a source of wisdom and compassion.

Wine is subjective. Use all parts of your psyche to decide what you like.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Heart's Desire

Today, as we celebrate Valentine's Day, tune in to that inner voice whispering your heart's desire.

If you find a yearning to change your vocation, find one that defines you and gives you a sense of purpose. If it involves your avocation, the sky is the limit. Be a rocket man/woman!

So who do we thank for this holiday and why?

Actually, St. Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome. He defied a decree of Emperor Claudius II, aka Claudius the Cruel, who had canceled all marriages and engagements because he believed single men made better soldiers. Valentine began to secretly marry couples and when Emperor Claudius was informed of these ceremonies Valentine was sent to prison where he remained until his death on February 14 in the year 270.

My heart's desire has been to spread my passion for wine, it's journey from vine to glass and how it elevates the food and company with which it is served.

Tonight, try of few of these romantic suggestions:

Watch the sunset together.

Eat dinner by candlelight.

Propose a toast to each other (open a "special" bottle /use the "good" glasses)


Say "I Love You" in a foreign language.

Je t'aime - French

Ich liebe Dich- German

ti amo- Italian

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Keeping It Neutral

A neutral country takes no side in a war between other parties, and in return hopes to avoid being attacked by either of them.

Current neutral countries include:

Austria- maintaining external independence and inviolability of borders.

Costa Rica- neutral country since 1949, after abolishing its military.

Finland- military doctrine of competent, "credible" independent defence, not depending on any outside support, and the desire to remain outside international conflicts.

Ireland- neutral country since independence in 1922.


Sweden- Sweden hasn't fought a war since ending its involvement in the Napoleonic Wars in 1814, making it the oldest neutral country in the world.

Switzerland- self-imposed, permanent, and armed, designed to ensure external security. It is the second oldest neutral country in the world and has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Turkmenistan- declared its permanent neutrality and had it formally recognised by the U.N.

When preparing red and white wine aroma kits, the material (i.e. blueberry, fresh coffee grounds or rose petals) is left to seep in 1/8 cups of dry, neutral wine. The liquid is strained, placed in an amber colored bottle and capped.

At our wine club meeting this weekend, one of the wines used was called Cler' Blanc from Sauvion-Le Cleray-Vallet. Upon doing some research, I found that this white table wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Loire Valley in France. There was some wine leftover from our project which tasted a little like rubbing alcohol. Unless you are looking to make your own kits, avoid this wine.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Big Chill

Originally developed in the cool wine regions of Germany in the mid-1700s, Icewine is derived from grapes that are left on the vine well into the winter months. The resulting freezing and thawing of the grapes dehydrates the fruit, and concentrates the sugars, acids, and extracts in the berries, thereby intensifying the flavours and adding complexity to the wine.

Genuine icewine must follow Vintners Quality Alliance regulations that prohibit any artificial freezing of grapes. The grapes are painstakingly picked by hand in their natural frozen state, ideally at temperatures of -10 to -13 degrees C. Sometimes the picking must be done at night to take advantage of the temperature.

Yields are very low, often as little as 5-10 percent of normal. The frozen grapes are pressed in the extreme cold. The water in the juice remains frozen as ice crystals, and only a few drops of sweet concentrated juice is obtained. This juice is then fermented very slowly for several months, stopping naturally.

The finished icewine is intensely sweet and flavorful. The wine balance is achieved by the acidity, which gives a clean, dry finish. The aromas of lychee nuts is prominent and the flavors are those of tropical fruits, like peach nectar and mango.

Try an artic blast from one this these producers. The grape variety used are listed in bold.

Egon Muller, Riesling, Eiswein; Krebs-Grode, Auxerrois, Eiswein Rheinhessen; Inniskillin, Vidal; Columbia Crest, Semillon Ice Wine, Reserve;Sepp Moser, Chardonnay, Eiswein, Kremstal; Henry of Pelham, Riesling, Ice Wine, Niagara Penninsula; Valley Vineyards, Ice Wine, Vidal Blanc, Ohio River Valley.

Hope your weekend is sweet!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Freeze The Fear

Why is the first reaction we have to change motivatived by fear? The fight or flight response is a fundamental physiologic response. Discovered by the Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, this response is hard-wired into our brains and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm.

Our body undergoes a series of very dramatic changes. Our respiratory rate increases. Blood leaves our digestive tract and is directed into our muscles and limbs. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens and our pupils dilate. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilizes with increased activation.

It is almost impossible to keep a positive attitude when we are in "survival" mode. Our heart is not open. Our rational mind is disengaged. Our consciousness is focused on fear, not love. Making clear choices and recognizing the consequences of those choices is unfeasible. We are focused on short-term survival, not the long-term consequences of our beliefs and choices. When we are overwhelmed with excessive stress, our life becomes a series of short-term emergencies. We lose the ability to relax and enjoy the moment.

Yesterday, I saw a story about a couple who were faced with the loss of their primary income. Instead of ignoring the initial sense of fear, the spouse acknowledged the emotion and then chose to dismiss it. They decided to open a bottle of wine and celebrate this opportunity for change and the extra time together while pursuing their options. This attitude attracted a job that was not only better for their family financially, but also showcased her spouse's skills and education.

So, how do we freeze fear? Consider using relaxation.

The easiest is with a simple two-step method as follows:

1. Focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Such words as "love" and "peace" work well.

2. When you find your mind has wandered or you notice any intrusive thoughts entering your mind, simply disregard them and return your focus to the word or phrase you chose.

And remember the health benefits of a glass of red wine per day. Eighty percent of the benefit of the wine is actually the alcohol, and 20 percent is the resveratrol. Resveratrol turns on a system in your body that prevents your cells from aging.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WOW White on a Weekday

Dry Creek Vineyard produces the most highly awarded Chenin Blanc in the nation. Over the past several vintages, this wine has earned more than 30 Gold Medals, plus scores of Silver and Bronze Medals. In 2001, it won the “Grandes Expressions de Chenin” award at the Loire Valley Wine Competition in France.

Located in Clarksburg, a relatively unknown grape-producing region in California's Sacramento Delta, the Dry Creek Vineyard is commitmed to sustainable agriculture and minimal off-farm consumption. Growing cover crops like clover and beans help rebuild depleted soil by releasing bound nutrients, minimizing the need to import fertilizer. Cover crops also reduce erosion, attracting beneficial insects that help balance the insect population.

Crafted in the traditional Loire Valley style, their Chenin Blanc is stainless steel fermented to preserve the fresh tropical aromas and bright acidity that have become hallmarks of this wine. At first swirl, the wine displays notes of melon, peach, and lemon peel. On the palate, crisp acidity is balanced with juicy tropical fruit flavors and additional hints of honeysuckle and rose petal. The finish is precise and harmonious with wonderful intensity and flavor – a perfect match with fresh shucked oysters or spicy Thai food. (or in our case, Moroccan Pheasant and Rice)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eschelon Pinot Noir Goes With.....

A flock of birds
A brood of chickens
A bed of clams
A herd of deer
A brace of ducks
A gang of elks
A gaggle of geese
A litter of pigs
A nest of rabbits
A bale of turtles

And the lamb chops and quail the restaurant served last Saturday night.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mais bien sûr

Few things are more satisfying on a cold, blustery day than soup. A classic French Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée, has a rich beefy broth that is dense with onions, topped by slices of grilled bread and covered with a blanket of melted Swiss or Gruyère cheese.

With a side of butternut squash ravioli in a sage and parmesean sauce, we chose a 2004 Tres Ojos Old Vines Garnacha from the Calatayud region of Spain. Tucked away in the high plains region southwest of Barcelona and northeast from Madrid, the hot days and cool nights produced a medium body wine with a spicy bouquet. The balanced tannins and hints of black pepper paired gracefully with our meal.

Red wine and soup, OUI.