Hiatus Of Wine…

…but not of whine.

There is just one thing to fear above many others for the traveling asthmatic: a plane ride with lots of sick people.  Sneezing, coughing, other indignant sounds coming from nearby passengers, and of course, the obligatory germ-clad child sits scattered about the cabin.

I had just finished a grueling (emphasis added, please) 102 mile bike ride on a mountain bike in Minnesota.  The Almanzo 100 (named for Manly on the once popular and innocent show of “Little House on the Prairie”) started out on a beautiful 70 degree morning in southeast Minnesota.  Gentle rolling hills of white, grey and brown gravel  punctuated side-views of open farm land, tree-lined parks and forests, and in places, a horizon that would never be met by our two-wheeled steeds.  To put into words by Louise Erdrich (MN author, of course), “some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.” It was a ride of nearly 1000 people looking to spend a day beyond common sense, and people met passion of life and an expression of freedom on untamed roads.

And it was beautiful, it was unexpected, and it tired the shit out of me, so much so, that I felt a dreaded sense of fatigue coming over me at mile 77, at mile 89 I felt my legs yearn for oil like the Tin Man in the “Wizard of Oz” and at 99, my chest collapse inward on my lungs, ordering me to limp into camp the back way with no shame at having taken the road more traveled for 3 miles. I crossed 100, and then some.

So: Airplane+bike exhaustion=really, really sick this week.

My tasting notes, therefore, this week are like the palette of colors of the Minnesota landscape: green tea of the hills; whiskey of the woods, orange juice like the jerseyed-peloton of riders, lemon peels the color of the waxing sun leaving an exposed landscape, and the clearness of water that surrounds all other colors.

I finished the ride with one Newcastle Brown Ale.  What I wanted, had any ounce of energy remained in my body, would have been a big, bold jammy red from California to steady the weariness and help outline the bigness I felt around me from riding 10 hours in the openness without boundaries.  Twin rebels with a sense of complexity.  I’m still waiting for that wine,  as it were, but will get back up on the horse as soon as the herd of germs have whimpered out of me as I did the great MN ride of gravel.


Stay tuned….

End of Week Attitude from “Altitude 2401”-Perry Creek

Whether there is great cause for celebration, or it’s Friday night and you have made it through another dog-eat-dog week, I have one wine to set the week apart and recommend, “Altitude 2401” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Perry Creek Winery in California.

I don’t need much fanfare to tout this wine.   It is a dark and brooding Renoir painting that you pick up at the garage sale down the street on a sunny afternoon.  In short, it is complex without being hard to understand.  In a word, it is deliperrycreekcious. 

The Wine: has deep notes of blackberry and baked plum, paired with your favorite leather jacket from high school that has mellowed and crackled with age. On the sidelines are soft, smokey oak notes that blend into the inner depths of this wine that makes it relaxed, approachable, and probably the best table wine you will drink all week.  The tannins are soft (I would say like the petal of a rose, but don’t wan’t to wax too poetic) and the finish is a medium long finish. It’s a drink now wine–and drink it as much as you can. 

I drank this wine during a dinner party tonight, so it had to be shared, and because there was only one bottle, I will make the workout.  But if I were alone, I would have hermitted away to finish this wine by myself.  “Live today, for tomorrow we ride” seems appros pos for opening another bottle (if I had had one).

Perry Creek has a number of good–and great–wines.  I found this during a trip to visit the family and have since joined the wine club.  And the in-between-wine-deliveries club (I started my own group, you could say).   But if you don’t live in California, and can’t get there soon–I would say troll online for a bit and find one to suit your taste. 





“Two Hands”-Better than none? 2011 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Sometimes I need “a little help from my friends.” The Beetles had it right, and with a little help from my sister, I was able to fly into Minnesota for a last minute meeting.

It doesn’t get any better than Spring in Minnesota–like a fine wine, the weather is balanced with the longer days; the air is crisp, but doesn’t border on cold; the sky is blue without the haze of humidity or mosquitoes, and people are just nicer, dontchya know?

Greeting me at home after a nice swim was also a bottle of Shiraz from Barossa Valley my sister had purchased the last time I was on the front.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I love me some reds from Barossa–the heat produces some lovely, and I think, complex, wines that are a great deal.

The Wine:Two Hands” has the nose of a jammy sShirazhiraz–red, baked plum, blackberry notes, and oak–if you get your nose deep down into the glass.  Upon tasting, though, the first subtle note is the sharpness of the alcohol (14.8%) followed by the black fruit notes of blackberry, a little baked plum, and slight pepper and vanilla flavors.  However, the body is medium-light; the flavor only lingers slightly, and the big, bold summer jam in a glass doesn’t come through.  It loses the kaleidoscope of flavors I love in a Barossa Valley wine, and wish this was a little more bold, had more dimensions, and danced a little more on the palette.

But, sometimes as the saying gets tweaked, Two Hands are better than one, and this is the case, especially if given as a gift.  (I believe she was able to get this at Costco).  This is not a wine I would write home about, but good thing I am already here to enjoy it.  Have a glass, or two, especially if it’s around, but don’t miss the workout.


Le Clos 2011: Guilt-Free Pleasure

Into the life of every triathlete, a little tiredness, soreness, boredom, and–trepidation about repeating the workout refrain–must* fall.  (*Must=self-inflicted)

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” Fitzgerald writes of Gatsby, the ultimate line ends the book.  At times like this (excruciating exposition withheld for brevity’s sake) I want to belly up to the bar, forget my obligations, and let oblivion bring me back to finals week in college with a little Allman Brothers playing in the background.

But, let’s face it–that “workout” is not good for training, and if you have ever met an Ironman-In-Training, you know we are like Catholics the next day after a binge-we feel a tremendous amount of guilt and repent in a self-loathing manner. Pain will not surmount memory, and thus combined, creates a bigger cycle of guilt to overcome.

But I need a drink.  Beer won’t cut it.  Deep wines to relieve the stress will be too heavy.  So I turned to a good friend, a French wine, Les Clos, 2011.

le clos

The Wine: This red, Languedoc wine drinks easy like Sunday morning (if you went to bed by 8 pm).  A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Grenache mixes up the fruit-forward flavors and light secondary notes nicely–offering a nose and palette of youthful red and black berries and spice (white pepper and vanilla oak). The alcohol-at 13%-is balanced with light tannins.  The body is light, the finish is light-to medium, and the guilt is low on the self-flagellation pole.  It’s like Weight Watchers in a bottle!

Where: I purchased this (*again) at Cleveland Park Liquor & Fine Wines shop for $9.99 (the price is another guilt-reducing benefit).  I am also slightly amused (and contented) that The Diner in Adams Morgan DC (one of my favorite go-to food joints) serves Le Clos.  This wine will drink well this summer on hot days and well on into the fall.  I would have this on hand as a go-to, a stand-by, and wouldn’t hesitate to take this to a casual dinner at a friend’s house.  Can drink, be merry, and still make the workout on this wine.


An Oenological Ark–Donkey and Goat’s “Stone Crusher”

In Noah’s Ark, a biblical story we’re all familiar with, animals paired with their counterparts to help keep the species going once the flood stopped.  In vino, Donkey and Goat have breached the cross of species and have come up with some unique wines, including the “Stone Crusher.”

SC, for short, is a Roussanne–a white grape from France’s Rhone Valley–but in the interbreeding done by Donkey and Goat, the wine spent 16 days on the skin, resulting in this beautiful, orange (or “unfiltered”) wine.

Stone Crusher -Roussanne

Now, I have had some weeks  (and nights) that have blurred around the edges, and this wine is no exception.  It is not what you expect.  At first sip, I thought I had poured the wrong bottle–it tasted distinctly like cider.  But plunging back nose-first, and adding the obligatory air to the taste, I came up with a wine that was more complex around the edges.  There was definitely apple and pear, but no oak to speak of that one imagines would come with a wine of this color.  Fuller bodied, medium to long finish, this wine had some density I associated with tannins and minerality that off-set it.  It was zesty in the sense that it was bright, but held back slight punch, as if marking a territory all its own.

All that said, it is a good wine, but I couldn’t get past my connotation of cider with the apple sensations.  I would order this wine again–maybe with a little more hearty and savory meal than the chicken  with which I paired it.  This night, I saved some of my training sense and didn’t finish the bottle, but think, like all things blurry, it deserves another chance.  And a good home.  We’ll see in another 40 days and nights if I can give it a second go.

You can find this in Cleveland Park (or on-line).  It is a premium try at $34.99, but definitely cheaper than a plane ticket!