Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ho Ho Ho and A Bottle of .....

Cachaça is a Brazilian liquor made from distilled unrefined sugar cane juice. The harvested sugarcane is washed and then pressed through large metal rollers to extract the juice. Then it is filtered to extract any cane fragments or other foreign matter. A leavening agent, such as fubá (corn meal), rice bran, rice flakes or other type of cereal, is added prior to fermentation. Cachaça is always distilled in such a way that the scent of sugar cane and inimitable flavor typical of rum are retained. The juice ferments in a wood or copper container for three weeks, and is then boiled down three times to concentrate.

Brazil has 4,000 brands of cachaça and the country produces 1 billion liters of the beverage per year. It is one of the most consumed drinks in Brazil, second only to beer.

Many Brazilians claim that the caipirinha was originally a folk remedy to help alleviate the symptoms of colds and the flu and to soothe sore throats.


2 tsp granulated sugar
1 lime(8 Wedges)
2 1/2 oz Cachaça

Mixing instructions:
Muddle the sugar into the lime wedges in an old-fashioned glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour the cachaça into the glass. Stir well.

Some foods to eat with caipirinhas include: fried yucca, fish/potato balls, and black beans.

Cachaça can be purchased at most Minneapolis liquor stores.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Green Fairy

Who? Is this just another Marvel comic book character?

No, it's Absinthe. This highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit is distilled from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium. The resulting liquid is typically green in color, hence the name “the Green Fairy.” Absinthe is uncommon among spirits in that it is bottled at a high proof but is diluted with water when it is consumed.

Absinthe’s popularity grew through the 1840s, when it was given to French troops as a malaria treatment. When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe with them, and it became popular at bars and bistros. During the late 19th- and early 20th-century, it was associated with bohemian culture and notable imbibers included Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde. Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive due to the chemical thujone, present in small quantities. Secondary effects of absinthe were caused by some herbal compounds in the drink acting as stimulants, while others acted as sedatives. By 1915 absinthe had been banned in most European nations and the United States.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s, when countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale. No current evidence has shown it to be any more dangerous than ordinary liquor.

Traditionally, absinthe is poured over a sugar cube that rests in the bowl of a slotted spoon. Ice-cold water is dripped over the sugar until the drink is diluted to a ratio between 3:1 and 5:1. During this process, the components that are not soluble in water, mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise, come out of solution, resulting in a cloudy drink. The addition of water is important, causing the herbs to “blossom” and bringing out many of the flavors originally overpowered by the anise.

Most shades of green speak to my soul. But, the "Green Fairy" whispers to my wild side.

Celebrate Nature's Abundance On Earth Day and Everyday

Green is the most important part of my nature, as much a part of me as my skin. When I feel hollow inside, I go outside, inhale the fresh earth smells and feel a part of something holy.

The following are Tim Rice's lyrics expressing awe and gratitude for nature's abundance.

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle of Life

The circle is a sacred symbol of life…individual parts within the circle connect with every other; and what happens to one, or what one part does, affects all within the circle.

This Earth Day, do your part to protect the circle of life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Delightful Diversity

Last Friday, I took part (via the internet) in a blending session for the Vayniac Cabernet Sauvignon. It was exciting to be part of making some "history" in a bottle. Our comments were discussed/taken into account through the live participants. It made me think about all the types of blending taking place in society as well as in wine.

The United States is a perfect example of blending. As someone who loves traveling to experience other cultures, having diversity in our own country delights me. I feel there can no longer be beliefs which divide or cast out any nationalities or creeds.

Then there are blended families. More than half of all Americans live in some sort of non-traditional family due to remarriage. One key for success is not rushing to try to create a harmonious family feeling. Be patient and be creative. Give each child their own personal private space. Hold regular family meetings to discuss issues. Talk to your partner about the best way to handle disciplining each other's kids. Ideally, you'll parent as a team and be firmly in the same camp when it comes to establishing ground rules, setting limits and defining what's appropriate.

Here are are some simple rules when blending wines:

Always have a goal in mind. For instance, will this be a two-bottle experiment that will be done for fun, or are you seeking to create gallons of a new blend that will later be bottled?

Blend wines of similar type. Never blend a bad wine with good wine in an attempt to make "acceptable" wine.

Begin by blending small quantities of wine until you achieve the desired effect. No need to make a lot of something you may not enjoy!

If you intend on keeping your blends for a while, use wines that were made in the same year.

Keep good notes on your blending attempts so you can duplicate the blend in the future.

Today, experience the joy of your favorite form of blending.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dull Dolcetto

Dolcetto is a black grape variety widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The name means "little sweet one," though it is nearly always a dry wine. Dolcetto wines can be tannic with moderate levels of acidity. They are known for black cherry and licorice flavors with a bitter finish reminiscent of almonds. They are typically meant to be consumed one to two years after release.

We opened a 2005 Dolcetto D'Alba from Treiso, Italy to serve with our Chicken Ratatouille. For a wine that is known to be fruit driven, it was flat. It appeared that the bottle suffered from a wine fault called oxidation resulting in a loss of color and flavor.

Since this was our first exposure to this grape, I will not pass judgments on this varietal quite yet. Thankfully, due to a recent wine sale, we were spared the full $18 retail price tag.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Tower of Faulty Bottles

John Cleese and the rest of the Pythons were filming in the Southwest of England in May 1971. They were scheduled to spend two weeks at the Gleneagles in Torquay, but cut their stay to one night. All do to the "wonderfully rude" hotel manager, the late Donald Sinclair.

Cleese set off to write and star in twelve episodes of the BBC hit " Fawlty Towers" based from that experience. He cast himself the manager Basil Fawlty, who felt that the main nuisances in a hotel were the guests. Sybil Fawlty was Basil's equal and opposite, the competent co-owner who could handle any situation, even those caused by her bumbling spouse.

George Herbert said, "All are presumed good, till they are found in a fault."

Last month, at a gathering of our wine club, we opened a 2006 red blend called Buddy's Bistro from the Chateau O'Brien vineyard in Virginia. Although not "cooked" on a stove top, the wine was clearly damaged by exposure to excessive heat during shipment or storage. What exactly does a "cooked" wine taste like? Some cite "overripe fruit" "prune-y fruit" or even "stewed fruit" as a dead giveaway. Others look for the telltale nutty but stale Sherry-like scent that betrays oxidation.

So many bad things can happen to good wine! Here is a list of other common wine "faults" from a recent issue of the 30 sec Wine Advisor.

• Cork taint: A moldy, musty stench reminiscent of wet cardboard or a damp basement, often with an overtone of chlorine bleach, identifies wine afflicted by a faulty natural cork.

• Oxidized: The familiar walnut aroma of inexpensive Sherry signals a wine exposed to oxygen over time in the bottle or through a faulty cork or stopper.

• Wild yeast: Earthy, "barnyard" aromas ranging from sweaty leather horse saddles to barnyards piled high with manure - often accompanied by a twangy acidic finish - usually denote contamination by wild yeast strains with names like brettanomyces ("brett") and dekkera.

• Volatile acidity: The bacterium acetobacter, afflicting carelessly made wines, can yield a range of "high-toned" aromas ranging from a whiff of furniture polish to a salad-dressing jolt of vinegar.

• Sulfur: A range of sulfur compounds (not to be confused with sulfites used as a natural preservative) can cause a variety of aroma faults in wine from "burnt match" to offensively stinky smells of overcooked cabbage, sauerkraut or swamp gas.

So, Basil, next time you open a bottle of wine, remember, before you sip, stop and smell.