For Christmas, my younger brother sent C. and me a half-dozen bottles of wine through mywinesdirect.com (though we haven’t looked into continuing the service since our wine stash is big enough as it is, and just getting bigger). The ones we’ve opened so far have been uneven in quality, but this one is enjoyable enough that I’d definitely consider paying a visit to X Winery.

Most of the California Cabernets I’ve tasted have been on the big, oaky, aggressive side – wines that my gut instinct would tell me to cellar for 5 – 10 years, at least, to soften the tannins. This particular Cab, young though it is, is already pretty well-balanced. The tannins are present but not huge, the nose is toasty-spicy, and there’s fruit as well as some rich cedar on the palate. I still think it would benefit from another few years, but I’m not sorry we opened it!


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Sun

7 May 2007

Scherzo in the sun

(More photos in this set available at Flickr.)

On Saturday, C. and I went to a great 5 de Mayo party hosted by the former president of the board of the school he works at. Horticulture is just one of her many talents, and her garden is absolutely amazing. It includes 80 varieties of roses (!), a huge array of succulents, native California plants, and more.

I found myself lamenting the fact that my apartment only has north-facing windows, and so I get no direct sunlight in the winter and only about an hour’s worth per day in the spring and summer, which isn’t enough to really grow anything – except happy cats, it seems! I love that Scherzo has figured out how to take full advantage of whatever morning sun he can get these days.


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Ooooh, I love this wine. Not surprising, given the great reputation of Grgich Hills.

The primary varietal of a Fumé Blanc, as I just learned from Wikipedia, is Sauvignon Blanc, which makes sense to me, given the yummy pear and grapefruit notes on the palate. A soft, toasty warmth on the nose, however, leads me to suspect that Grgich aged this wine in oak, which the winery’s tasting notes confirm – 5 months in French Oak, to be exact.

But this wine doesn’t have the smarmy, domineering butteriness of over-oaked Chardonnays – instead there is just enough to give a nice depth to the wine without sacrificing crispness. To me, overall, the impression is of a lively, complex Pinot Grigio (adjectives that are hard to come by in actual Pinot Grigios, in my limited experience. Actual wine connoisseurs/euses, please feel free to broaden my horizons.).

In sum: add Grgich to the list of Napa Valley wineries C. and I need to revisit on our next trip up there.


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Clueless

3 May 2007

[Full disclosure: I started this post on Thursday (hence the edited timestamp) but it's taken me a while to get it right...]

I got home from a rehearsal last night at about 10:30 and did my typical winding-down things: checking e-mail, petting the cats, asking C. how his day went. With that last item I’m never sure what I’m going to get – C. can be monosyllabic or talkative depending on his mood (as can I; we’re both basically introverts). Last night he was pretty chatty, almost unusually so. He told me what had gone on at his rehearsals and lessons in the evening and then kind of circled back around to tell me that his school had been on a field trip that day, and so he had most of the day off since he wasn’t on chaperone duty.

In the same rather roundabout way he got to mentioning that he’d taken the time to wash his car (the sexy red 1988 BMW 325i convertible that he loves to distraction*) in the late morning, and as he was working on it his upper back started seizing up – since October he’s been having repetitive stress problems in his right shoulder from conducting, of all things – so he decided to call around and see if he could get seen by a licensed massage therapist on short notice. He said he found one place that could take him at noon, or more precisely, that he could just walk into at any time, and that was cheaper than the place that couldn’t take him till 1 p.m.

At this point in the story it occurred to me to wonder out loud whether the place was any good if they weren’t booked up, and to wonder silently whether C. had thought to ask himself the same question at the time. Apparently… not. As he finally came out and admitted after a little embarrassed hemming and hawing and nervous giggling:

“Dear… I think I had a massage at a brothel.”

My first reaction was disbelief – he had to be having me on, right? But he went on to describe how he got to the place (called Crystal Massage, which should have been his first clue) and was greeted by a woman in a nightie, then escorted to room 3 and told that his masseuse was named Lucy. Or Luci, or Lucie, or however a “massage parlor” “masseuse” would spell it. His escort, as she was putting new linens on the “massage table” (OK, fine, apparently it was an actual massage table) asked him, in heavily accented English, “Is your first time here?” C. answered that it was, and she gave a conspiratorial laugh. Should have been his second clue, yes? But no… he suspected nothing.

He kept his pants on, so he tells me, since he was just wanting his shoulders worked on. Lucy/i/ie (also in a nightie, as it turns out) walked in, saw that he was half-naked (OK, half-clothed, fine), and asked, also in heavily accented English, “You no want down there?” C. answered in the negative, and Lucy/i/ie – wait for it – walked out of the room and walked back in wearing a jacket over her nightie. What should have been his third clue was actually his first. Finally!

Why did he continue instead of leaving, you might ask? Well, he’d already paid for a half-hour, of course! He went on to get pretty much the worst massage of his life for 20 minutes (“I thought you had been trolling the Internet for a licensed massage therapist,” I teased him). But upon hearing him complain that he’d paid for 30 minutes, Lucy/i/ie apparently got mad enough to start really digging in, so the last 10 minutes were actually useful.

By that point I was laughing my head off. And of course I’ve been busting his chops about it since then, which he has graciously taken in the spirit in which it is intended: all in good fun. Turns out I’m the one getting the *ahem* happy ending here, ’cause oh, am I going to get some mileage out of this one. Any crap I get for anything from now on, and I’m going to be all “well, at least I didn’t accidentally get a massage at a brothel!”

*For those of you who actually read this far, and because I’m feeling guilty about the edited timestamp, I have a special treat:

BMW

Meet C.’s pride and joy, parked in front of the house I grew up in, in Brooklyn, NY, right after he purchased it from a guy in Queens, and before he drove it back to CA. On I-80. In the dead of winter. He’s crazy, but I love him.


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We seem to be on quite the Healdsburg kick lately. Tonight’s bottle comes from Wilson Winery, which I honestly don’t remember visiting, though C. assures me I was there. He also says it was our first stop that trip, so I can’t blame my forgetfulness on being tipsy. Apparently it has a great view – I kind of do remember the view.

My overall feeling on this bottle is that we should have left it alone for a few more years. It’s tight – very dry and tannic – and I wonder whether it would have opened up some more with time. We discovered over dinner (entirely shopped for and cooked by the lovely and talented C., by the by) that this is not a great food wine; its character was hidden by the flavors of the meal. On its own, it displays cedar, smoke and caramel on the nose, with a Chardonnay-like butteriness and the barest hint of plummy fruit on the palate. The coffee/mocha thing the winery’s tasting notes mention is there too. In sum, not a spectacular wine, and probably not a winery we will go out of our way to visit again.

OK, to be completely random because I don’t want to end on a negative note tonight: We brought a bottle of the Hall 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet to Easter brunch chez PS & EJ last month, and it was a huge hit. If we ever stop obsessing over the Russian River Valley and head back up to Napa, we have to visit Hall again.


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Vespers, our lovely, fluffy, soft, cuddly, and incredibly LOUD black cat, has an unfortunate habit of sitting outside our closed bedroom door and yowling her fool head off at about a quarter of too early most mornings. She is not begging for food or water, since we feed the cats at night, nor is she clamoring to be let into the bedroom or to be petted — if we open the door and invite her in she’ll sit there and look at us like we’re space aliens, and if we try to play with her she’ll scamper away. She just wants us to be on the same side of the door as she is, which at 5 a.m. is asking a little too much of two night owls who often have work days running from 9 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night.

Keeping the bedroom door open at night is not really a workable solution, since Scherzo, our part-Russian-Blue who is still kittenish at five years old and into absolutely everything, will spend much of the night knocking things off the dresser and generally making a racket. What we really needed to do was to fit Vespers with a snooze button.

Enter our trusty friend and the cats’ worst enemy: the vacuum cleaner. C. hit upon the idea of stationing the vacuum outside the door, running the cord under the bedroom door and plugging it into an extension cord equipped with an on/off switch. When Vespers starts yowling in the morning, he flips the switch on and then quickly off again, causing the vacuum to make just enough noise to startle the cat and get her to abandon her post outside the door. This morning she started sounding reveille again a little while after we “hit snooze,” but it was from somewhere else in the apartment so it wasn’t nearly as difficult to doze through.

Now all we need to do is muffle the bathroom cabinet doors she has figured out how to repeatedly open and (loudly) shut, and Operation Reclaim Sleep will be well underway!


Dinner tonight was a collaboration: pork chops brined with apple cider vinegar and braised in white wine with a white wine reduction (by C.), skillet-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes with thyme, and Brussels sprouts braised with a little water and then sauteéd with toasted pine nuts and minced garlic (by me).

C. opened the Roshambo 2004 Rock Paper Scissors white for the pork braise and reduction, and the rest of the bottle was a perfect accompaniment to both cooking the dinner and eating it. This is an inexpensive table wine that’s great with food – medium-bodied, crisp and accessible, with not too much oak (the way I like my Chardonnays!) and a silky texture. My favorite nuance in this one was green apple. All in all, not a very complex wine, but definitely enjoyable.


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Open Letter

27 April 2007

Dear obnoxious BART commuter:

There’s no way that you could know that I generally dislike making small talk with complete strangers. That said, making snide comments to your seatmate in the third person is precisely the wrong way to get me to turn my head from my knitting to acknowledge you. Bonus wrongness points for mentioning Madame Defarge.

I can ignore you for much, much longer than it will take for you to get bored with trying to get a rise out of me, so why don’t you try a different tack, like maybe asking me a direct question? You don’t even need to compliment the knitting; just ask me about it and I’ll answer you politely, and maybe even chat for a little bit if I’m feeling extraverted. Here, I’ll even save you having to come up with something:

  • How come you’re using so many needles?
  • Is that knitting or crochet?
  • What are you working on?
  • What’s the point of knitting socks when you can just buy them? (Some knitters will be annoyed by this one. I’ll answer it, but you may not get small talk afterward.)

And because I’m feeling generous, a tip for dealing with future female knitters you may encounter: If you see one working on something that looks like it might possibly be for a baby, do not assume she is pregnant, especially not out loud. I did not turn and poke you in the eye, but others may not be as restrained.

Thank you,
dulcian


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Bodies Count!

26 April 2007

In lieu of a real post tonight:

Join C. and me and 1,000+ others for the Bodies Count Beach Impeach event in San Francisco this Saturday. Some impressive photos from the January event are up on the Bodies Count site, and this weekend’s promises to be even bigger. Look for us near (where else?) the bottom of the C!


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I’m not sure where we picked up this bottle, but it was probably at Whole Foods. I think we decided to try it because we’re enamored of a Syrah rosé that I think is also by Chateau d’Aussières, though I cannot for the life of me find a link. Or maybe we’re completely wrong about that and there is no connection.

Anyway, we opened it tonight to go with a humble meal of leftovers, just the two of us at home with the cats, the type of night on which we’re usually reluctant to open “the good stuff”, or something we’re sentimentally attached to. It’s a Syrah-Grenache-Mourvedre-Carignane blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, and deep garnet in color with medium body. My (undereducated) nose is not detecting much in the way of complexity or invitation. The first sip is spicy, tannic and earthy, which I like, but this gives way to a rather unpleasant and overpowering rose-petal potpourri note (I wish I were joking) on the back of the tongue. C. says he gets a yeasty flavor from this, kind of like a Beaujolais Nouveau.

In short, though this wine is far from undrinkable, we probably wouldn’t buy it again. But since someone doesn’t have to be at work until 10 a.m. tomorrow, the lucky SOB, I have a hunch the bottle will get finished.

EDIT: Actually, the bottle didn’t get finished until I finished it the next night. The potpourri-ness was toned down after several hours in a vacuum-stoppered bottle, but I still wouldn’t go out of my way to drink this wine again.


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