Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wining thankfully...

Yep, it's that time of year again. Articles abound - what wine to pair with turkey, what recipes to use, what we're thankful for. Christmas music fills the air...etc.

I'm thankful, too. Thankful that I get to play in the wine biz - tasting great wines and delicious foods, hanging with winemakers and writers and enthusiasts, dreaming of the day I can put the day job aside and focus 100% on wine.

The Goddess with Ian B!
I'm thankful that winemakers send me their wines to taste and review. And I'm thankful that sometimes I get a second chance to taste wines and revise my original thoughts. A few months ago, the folks at Patland Estate Vineyards sent me wines during a serious heat wave. My team of tasters liked 2 of the wines a lot, and the other 2 not so much. I met Henry Patland last week at LearnAboutWine's STARS of Cabernet. He remembered my review - not warmly, I might add - but offered me the chance to retaste the wines. I'm so glad he did! Whatever flaws were in the bottles during the summer are gone. I don't know whether or not the wine was heat-damaged during shipment, or was in a 'dumb' period, but the Cabernets Henry poured for me were luscious, ripe and yummy, and except for their color, bore no resemblance to the previously unbalanced bottles we tasted. Yes, 'yummy' is a technical term. So, thanks for the retaste! I look forward to your upcoming vintages.

Vines on the Marycrest!
I'm thankful that I got to attend the very successful Paso Garagiste festival on 11/12. There have already been lots of online blog posts and articles about the fest, and I do want to add my congratulations to the team - Doug Minnick, Stewart McClennan, Dan Erland Andersen, Lisa Dinsmore, and many others. The venue at Windfall Farms was gorgeous. The day turned out beautiful, after the rainy day before, the wineries were happy, the guests were happy, and I was happy!

I really enjoyed and learned so much at the morning seminars; in The Road from the Garage, winemakers Neil Collins of Lone Madrone and Tablas Creek, Terry Culton of Adelaida Cellars and Justin Smith of Saxum were candid and funny, sharing their experiences in the wine world, ably moderated by Stewart, who knew what questions to ask. The clear friendship and respect among these artists was delightful to see, and their insights into winemaking were fascinating, especially as they each discussed their favorite grapes.

The second seminar - Barrel Tasting with Christian Tietje of Cypher Wines (formerly of Four Vines) and Ryan Render of St. Martin cooperage - was eye-opening for me. I know a bit about the effect of wood on wine, but this discussion and tasting was extraordinary. To be able to taste wines in oak from different forests, different countries, different coopers was to discover exactly why winemakers refer to cellaring in oak as 'the spice rack'. Wonderful! I was sorry that we had to stop and move on to the rest of the event.

I'm thankful that - having gone to Paso without JD (a first) - I was lucky to meet up with Xochitl and Barry and their longtime friends Larry and Mike. We met Friday night at Thomas Hill Organics, where we shared bottles of Mike's first vintage - a 2009 Templeton Gap Syrah under his personal 'label' Harridge House Cellars, and my favorite Shai Cellars 2008 Adome - with the BEST chicken pot pie I have ever had. Ever. I can hardly wait to take JD to Thomas Hill. Saturday night after the event, the 5 of us met at Ian McPhee's in Templeton for another great meal. I brought a bottle of 2001 Vita Nova 'Reservatum' Sangiovese blend from Jim Clendenen - after all those big Rhones and Zinfandels I needed something lighter! - and we got a bottle of the house Pinot Noir - the Au Bon Climat, also by Mr. Clendenen! Another great meal with lots of laughs.

I'm thankful that we have relatives in the Central Coast, providing an even greater incentive to spend more time in a region we already love. It helps keeps our eyes on the goal of moving there. Brunch with Sara, Dan and Ruth at Dorn's on Sunday morning was too short, but gave us a chance to hug each other for an extended time.

I'm thankful that we've made friends with Ventura County winemakers Gary & Karen Stewart and Steve & Lora Simonsgaard at Four Brix, who provided a respite on the drive home - food and wine at the member wine pickup party.

The love of my life
And I'm very thankful that I've been married to my best friend for over 22 years, that he never ceases to surprise, entertain and drive me crazy, but shares my passion for wine, literature, theater, music, scifi & fantasy, and all things silly. (photo by Bob Dickey - no relation!)

It's been a hard year in many ways, and I expect that 2012 will hold its own challenges, but I am so thankful that I have this life, filled with great friends and family, great wines and food, and more adventures on the horizon!

Cheers to you all for Thanksgiving!

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