One brilliant Thursday, a group of us at work decided to take a long siesta and took the water taxi down to Chinatown. What a glorious day to be out on the water. Clear blue skies, but not sweltering hot. It was an enjoyable 15 minute ride down to Chinatown, where dim sum awaited.
Finally, a completely sunny weekend filled with summer-y activities!
Got in our first sail of the season on Friday evening, and realized that we still have 8 more hours on our punch card from 2012 because we only went out one measly time last year! It was a perfect evening to be out on the water too: decent steady winds of 10-15 knots, calm waters, beautiful late afternoon light. We took turns sailing down to North Avenue beach and back.
On Saturday, we joined S+E out on the Des Plaines River Trail for a bike ride. We’d attempted the same route last year, but had to give up 15 miles in because Jeff got a flat tire and no one thought to bring a patch kit. This year, we were armed and ready, but didn’t have need for it and managed a good 31 mile round trip cycle. Earned that dinner and wine after! :)
Sunday, we made it to the climbing gym for the first time in erm, 2 months. Hehe. Got in two solid hours of climbing, though my stamina was clearly lacking after the long hiatus. Earned that delicious lunch at Ginger and Garlic after though. Heh.
In all, mighty pleased with the weekend’s shenanigans. This next weekend, we’ve plans for some biking and canoeing, but so far the weather looks like it might act up again. Fingers crossed!
Last Thursday, we opened a bottle of the 2008 Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah from Walla Walla Valley, to go with some leftover bibimbap. I didn’t like it. The wine tasted green – closed, too full of tannins that coated my mouth and masked any hint of fruit. Abrupt finish. I don’t think Jeff fancied it much either. We shared a measly glass between the two of us, and consigned the rest of the bottle to the fridge.
On Saturday, we opened a bottle of Esporao Reserva 2011 ($20) at L+M’s. Initial reaction – what was that funky, cheesy nose that reeked of stale pee? I didn’t really want to taste it, but gamely gave it a sip. Urgh. It was awful. I shifted the glass far, far away from my plate of delicious Alaskan halibut that M caught and L seared.
Ten minutes later though, Aaron urged me to give it another go again. Gingerly, I brought it to my lips, preparing to grimace. But it had softened, quite considerably, now reminiscent of a creamy, oaky and lemony Chardonnay. Now, it nicely complemented the fish.
Too often, I’ve judged wines – and people and situations – too quickly, and harshly. Here was the perfect example of giving a second chance, and being pleasantly surprised.
Taking that lesson into account, I took out the leftover Uriah from last Thursday tonight, to go with some homemade baked trout. To be honest, on the way home from work with my fish, I had seriously entertained the idea of using the rest of the wine in stew, but then I determined to give it another try. And was I happily surprised again! The wine had mellowed out quite a bit, and not was beautifully round and fruity in the finish. Jeff and I quite easily polished off the rest of the bottle. :)
Biked down to North Avenue Beach this evening to play with my new 10-stop ND filter. I wanted to take a long exposure shot of the city skyline, to get a sense of the passage of time. Earlier in the day when I checked the forecast, it said partly cloudy skies – perfect for my needs. But by the time we biked down, it had started to drizzle a little. The rain let up in minutes, but it remained very overcast.
Came away this this 2 minute shot that I think sort of works, but I’m not that in love with it. Oh well. Just have to go back for another try.
|From Travel, a Journey through Time|
We’ve come to the end of the road of our California tasting classes. And what a way to end the series. So many stunners in Sonoma and Napa! I’m itching to go back out there to taste again. I’ve only been a couple times to Napa, and not Sonoma, but now that we’ve had some years of wine appreciation behind us, it might be fun to go back again, nevermind the crazy tasting prices. :)
Some of the favorites:
11 wines in the line up: 6 whites, 5 reds
2012 Inman Family Wines Brut Rose Russian River Valley $52
Apples, strawberries. Nice minerality and acidity
2012 Amapola Creek Chardonnay Jos. Belli Vineyards Russian River Valley $50
What an amazing nose! Freshly mown grass, honey, round finish. Someone said “drawn butter” and would pair it with scallops. Yums
2011 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay De Brye Vineyard Sonoma Valley $90
Big nose. Not as lemony as the Patz and Hall chardonnay we had right before this. Minerals, but of wood. Acidity in the back of the mouth, but not razor sharp like that Patz. Overall, a very nice wine (we’d tasted this before in another tasting), but hard to justify that price tag
2011 Three Sticks Winery Pinot Noir Silver Eagle Vineyard Russian River Valley $60
“Full of shist”. Tobacco, cherries, mint, cola. Soft, round, juicy. Loooong finish.
Bill’s quote of the night: “Il descend dans la gorge comme le Bébé Gésu en pantalon de soie.” Or, in English: “Goes down the throat like Baby Jesus in silk panties.”
2011 The Donum Estate Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard Carneros $70-$80
Not one of the favorites that evening, but I included it here because Donum has otherwise been consistently one of our favorite Pinots. We’ve really enjoyed labels from their 2008, 2009, 2010 vintages. However, this one disappointed – much more tannins, higher acidity than we expected from this. Metals, some stinky cheese in the nose, with hints of strawberries and tea in the mouthfeel. Bill explained after that 2011 was a bad year for them. They tried to hang the fruit on the vines a bit longer but got hit by rain. So they actually declassified all the lots except for 2.
2009 COBB Pinot Noir Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast $66
Minerals, acidity, stinky cheese. Orange and sea. Tannins
2011 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $30
Hot, toasted marshmallows. Pretty tasty.
10 wines in the line up; 3 whites and 7 reds
2013 Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc “Soliloquy” Oakville $25
Metals, minerals, mint leaves, melony. Nice acidity with long finish
2012 Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay Truchard Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley $60
Cheese in the nose, little bit of lemon. Beautiful nose. Round, fresh. Light in the mouthfeel but long finish
2000 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch Oakville $100
Someone in the group, Robert, not of the wines, donated this bottle from his cellar. It’d cost just a fraction of the price when he picked it up eons ago, which is super cool. Someone said “Wrigley’s spearmint gum” – spot on description! Metals, fruit, soft. Delicious
2005 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $90-$105
Someone said, “Dirty in a good way”. Yup, can definitely get the earth in that one. Along with spices, plum, cassis. Sweet finish. Just a hint of cigar and spice in the back of the nose.
2011 Newton Vineyard Merlot Unfiltered Spring Mountain $60
Bright, soft. Can definitely get that structure of Cabernet in this one (21% CS). Lots of acidity
2009 Au Sommet Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak $250
Initial taste: pretty good. Fruit, fruit, fruit! Bright, smooth tannins. But at that $250 price tag, not something I’d be excited over.
But a half hour later: POW! OMG. So much more complex in the nose and mouth. Layers of soft stem smells, premium tobacco leaves, earl grey tea. Oh my. I still can’t get over the flavors in this one. Definitely worth that price tag now.
Winemaker – Heidi Barret of Screaming Eagle fame
2010 Quintessa Red Blend Rutherford $150
Before the Au Sommet fully opened up, this was the favorite of the evening. Sex, seductive. Tomatoes.
Over the fourth of July long weekend, we did a road trip with Jeff’s parents and Joe. After our epic road trip out west a month earlier, we should have been seasoned, but the 6 hour plus drive from NYC still felt pretty long. I guess the Infinity isn’t nearly as comfortable as our Lexus SUV. Everyone complained of cramps and sore asses haha.
We lucked out with the weather though. It was the same weekend where Hurricane Andrew was pounding the coast. Although our flight into NYC was delayed some 5 hours, the weather in the Finger Lakes was gorgeous.
Hit up 4 wineries over the 3-day weekend: Hermann J. Wiemer, Anthony Road, Dr. Konstantin Frank, and Ravines. Our favorite was the last. Even though the tasting room was the most crowded and our host appeared harried trying to pour for 4 different groups at once, the wines were delicious. Alsace style – more lean and dry than the semi-sweet versions so favored in the other wineries. I steered clear of the reds, sticking to just the rieslings and dessert wines. Just can’t get past how extracted the reds are – I didn’t even want to taste some of them after just sniffing at the glass. We’d bought a couple of the rieslings though, but didn’t want the hassle, and just contented with tasting.
We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Keuka Lake, Robertson Inn, a house that was built in the mid-19th century. Genial hosts who made simple but delicious and hearty breakfasts. :) The house itself is in town, away from the lake. And because most of Keuka Lake is surrounded by privately owned houses, we only had glimpses of the lake from the road. Ah well. But we did have much more scenic views of Lake Seneca and Lake Ithaca on our drives.
Visited Jeff and Joe’s alma mater, Cornell. What a beautiful, sprawling campus! It was Jeff’s first visit back after graduation, and he was excited to revisit his old haunts, and check out sights that he’d never been to too.
|From Travel, a Journey through Time|
So happy we managed to squeeze in a quick stop at Watkin’s Glen early Sunday morning, and that we went right at dawn – not only did we not have to pay, it was so quiet and peaceful and I could set up my tripod wherever and snap to my heart’s content. Made it back to our B&B in time for breakfast with Jeff’s parents
Another highlight of the weekend – driving back from Watkins Glen to Keuka Lake on Sunday morning, we passed what seemed like the state’s population of Amish on the move. Girls in long flowery dresses and bonnets, boys in black bowling hats, white shirts with suspenders on black slacks, all riding along the side of the roads. And horse carriages with the elderly and young children. We felt like we were transported back in time – or had wandered onto the set of Downtown Abbey. :)
Some favorite wines from recent tasting classes with Bill, better for reference purposes when we’re in need of inspiration on what next to buy hehe.
One of the coolest infographic showing the different wine regions in France
2012 Chene Bleu Viognier Vaucluse $40
Beautiful nose of peach, apricot, brioche.
Not sweet in the mouthfeel though; bitter notes on side
2012 Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer “Reserve Personelle” Alsace $35
Lychee! But not the super ripe type. Orchids. Elegant.
10 wines in the line up. Tasted on July 1st – apparently a “fruit day”, so the better to taste wines on
NV Camille Braun Cremant d’Alsace Brut $20
Sparkling made the champagne method. Lemon Bread! Clean finish, fresh, yums
2011 Meyer-Fonne Riesling Reserve $20
Green apple, lemon, classic riesling nose, granite, some petroleum. Nice acidity
2009 Rene Mure Riesling Vendage Tardive Clos St-Landelin Grand Cru Vorbourg $75
Petrol stink, sauteed onion? Peanuts?
2011 Domaine Erhart Pinot Gris “Im Berg” $20
Lychee-like, earth, talcum powder. Almost bitter finish
2010 Domaine Weinbach Gewurtztraminer Cuvee Theo $40
One of our two clear favorites of the evening. While the Domaine Erhart Pinot Gris had some lychee in the nose, the fruit was so much more prominent in this wine – but not overwhelming. Such a gorgeous bouquet. Someone in our group generously brought along some cheese to share, and the munster went soooo beautifully with this wine.
2009 Hugel Pere & Fils Pinot Noir “Jubilee” $77
Other favorite of the evening. Sensuous nose of ripe strawberries. Sexy mouthfeel – waves of silk. Someone in our group wasn’t a fan though, and said that the “nose was like someone poured vodka into it”. I don’t know – while the wine was a little hotter than some of the best pinots we’ve had, I thought it was a well made wine.
2011 Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore Riserva DOCG “Luna Mater” Lazio $22
Blend of grapes: Malvasia di Candidia, Malvasia di Lazio, Greco, Bombino
Taste of honey in the mouth, nice and bracing acidity. We brought the leftovers home, and it went so well with homemade laksa – rounded out in the finish, softer
2010 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG “Bellezza” Toscana $35
Spice, pepper, dark fruit – nice nose! Red apples in the mouthfeel, down to the tannins of the red apple skin. Lean in profile.
2008 Boroli Barolo DOCG Piedmonte $40
Brownish red hue. Raisins, dark cherry. Smooth tannins, chewy
2011 Tasca d’Almerita Nero d’Avola IGT “Lamuri” Sicilia $20
Compared to the rest of the other 11 wines we tasted, this was the most non-food friendly wine. Rounder, softer finish, not as lean and acidic.
2010 Terra di Monteverro Toscana Rosso IGT Toscana $135
Bordeaux blend in Italy! 45% CS, 10% Merlot, 10% PV, 35% CF. Sweet wood, smooth, tannins
We’ve spent the past three weeks exploring, with Bill, our intrepid guide, the history, philosophy, and wine making sensibilities of wine in California. Two more weeks to go – where we’ll get to steep in the wines of Sonoma and Napa Valley.
It’s been a fascinating journey – we began by charting the route of the Spanish missionaries as they wended their way north on horseback, up along the California coast in the late 18th century, as the Continental Army were beginning to fight for their independence against the British on the east coast. California was still part of the wild west, up for territorial grab. And as the Spanish established missionaries in what we now refer to as San Diego, San Carlos, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz etc, they also helped kick off a fledging wine industry.
Over the course of the class, we also explored the philosophy of wine making in California. We looked at the effects of Prohibition on winemaking, as well as the differences between wine making sensibilities in America vs. France. It’s no accident that the term “winemakers” was invented in the US. Whereas American winemakers take inordinate pride in crafting their wines in the laboratory, the French winemakers refer to themselves as vignerons, people who cultivate vineyards to turn into wine.
We even got a 101 course on the different types of soil prized for growing wine grapes. Or to be clear, the different combinations of soil that are best. Clay, by itself, is dismal – too high in acid, too cool, holds too much water. But pair it with limestone, a baser soil which lets water seep through more easily, you’ve a winner. Other types of soil conducive to wines: Granite/shist (granular, ie. breaks down over time; acidic rock good for acidic grapes like gamay, pinot noir – the higher acidity in the soil slows down maturation, which helps the grapes retain their acidity; holds heat); Basalt (highest in nutrients); Slate (like granite, holds water in its fissures and is like a heat amphitheater).
Favorites from Tasting #1
12 Samplings from Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County, Arroyo Grande Valley, Edna Valley, Paso Robles. What a lineup – so many favorites, and at prices considered a steal compared with Sonoma and Napa!
2012 Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley ($50)
Melon-y, crisp, smooth and dry finish
2005 Talley Vineyards Chardonnay Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley ($50)
Smells like smores at a campfire. “Wedding-band gold color”, as someone eloquently put it. Stewed tangerine. Honeyed but also tart
2012 Melville Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills $35
Metallic, cherries, oolong tea, tannins. Beautiful deep pink color. Fresh tomatoes
2012 Dragonette Cellars Pinot Noir Radian Vineyard Santa Rita Hills $54
Round finish, darker fruit. Beautiful long end
2012 The Ojai Vineyard Grenache/Syrah John Sebestiano Vineyard Santa Rita Hills $38
Very soft texture, more floral than fruity, rose petals
2004 Tensley Wines Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara County $35
Bah kwah (chinese bbq pork with honeyed glaze). Beautiful. Liquid silk. Ooh my
2010 Justin Vineyards & Winery Red Blend “Justification” Paso Robles $44
Cherry tomatoes. Almost chewy – thick and dark
2001 Epiphany Cellars Petite Sirah Rodyney’s Vineyard Santa Barbara County $30
Big stinky earthy nose. Gorgeous mouthfeel. Enveloping tannins – not rough, but coats your mouth. Big, dark, powerful
Favorites from Tasting #2
2012 Han Estates Pinot Noir “SLH” Santa Lucia Highlands $35
Beautiful, gorgeous, sensuous nose. Hint of metal, spice, wood. Silky tannins, with mint at the back of the palate
2010 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Home Vineyard Livermore $50
Ketchup, dark fruit, smooth tannins, long finish
2010 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Folkendt Vineyard Livermore $65
Nice nose; sensuous, more grounded. Smoother tannins, bigger heavier wine than the former Steven Kent. What’s interesting is that they were made in exactly the same way, differing only in clone and vineyard
2011 Michael David Petit Verdot “Inkblot” Lodi $40
BBQ potato chips. Super dark. Sweet, elegant, complex. Someone said it was like “400-pound linebackers – big but light on their feet”
Favorites from Tasting #3
Gosh. We plowed our way through 15 different wines this night. Bill originally started off with 10 wines, but found a bottle of Edmunds St John Bone-Jolly 2011 that he wanted to add to the lineup. One of the people in the class also brought along 4 bottles from Scribe Winery that they’d opened and tasted at work a couple days before (ah to work for a wine distributor!).
Fulcrum Wines Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $54
I love me a good pinot, and this was up there. 777 and 115 clones. Black cherry, leather, anise, rose. Hamburger. Perfect cool summer evening’s wine. Brought the leftovers to Rickshaw, an Indonesian Restaurant down the street, and just luxuriated in its mouthfeel.
2011 Brassfield Estate Red Blend “Eruption” Volcano Ridge Vineyard High Valley $24
Mouthful of tannins. Somewhat citrusy, but with a minty lift at the end.
2010 Terre Rouge Syrah “Les Cotes de l’Ouest” CA appellation $20
Not bad, light-ish and bright. I wanted to pair it with some blood sausage, for some odd reason.
I think it speaks to how brutal and unfriendly the weather has been in Chicago that when X came into town for the weekend, everyone she met remarked repeatedly – and I mean repeatedly – how lucky she is to have come in when she did. For the weather was absolutely beautiful. 70 degrees, cloudless brilliant blue skies.
X spent the day Friday exploring downtown and the river by herself. I met up with her in the evening after work, and we took a quick stroll up Michigan Avenue just so she could check that off the bucket list. But the highlight of the evening was, after dinner at La Ciudad – our staple Mexican joint – we went by Montrose Harbor to watch the sunset and the moon rise. Happily and fortuitously, the honey moon of June was rising, just 20 minutes after the sunset. A big group of people setting up their gigantic telescopes kind of clued us in.
We stuck around, alternately swatting off the bugs that descended on our bare flesh in the deepening twilight, and alternately snapping pictures of the skyline, until at last, we collectively spied a sliver of red creep up over the horizon. It was a beautiful sight to behold. There were half a dozen sailboats out on the water, and they flitted in and out of the glow of the orange moon as it slowly but surely rose higher and higher into the sky.
So glad we got to share in that moment, especially after a week where the rain clouds hung obstinately low over the city, and on an evening when our friend was in town and we could properly showcase the city of Chicago. The group of folks with their huge telescopes, it turned out, were from the Chicago Astronomers Society, and they very kindly let everyone peek through their telescopes at the moon.
The skies were still a brilliant blue the next morning when we awoke – a perfect time for a spot of slack lining and flying trapeze. X was game enough to let me drag her into whatever I thought was cool, hehe! A couple other friends joined us for their first experience on the flying trapeze as well, and we passed two very pleasant hours on the lake front swinging into the net.
I had a really lovely weekend in all; it’s always fun when friends visit, especially old friends like X who visited all the way from Thailand. We may have but few opportunities to catch up over the years since middle school, but thanks to social media, we’ve managed to keep more or less in touch with each other so that time seems to melt away. Hopefully we’ll have more such opportunities to meet up again in the future!