Finding Wine Woosah: Non-review post (sort of)

You know moving ranks right up there as one of the top “stressors”, right?

Add being a wine snob to the mix, and having to give up all good wine avenues.  That’s what this move felt like (especially since you can’t go to a Whole Foods on a Sunday for a last-minute wine purchase).  T.Jefferson once said, “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”  As one moves freely about the country in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness,  boozelessness proves to be a bit too turbulent at times, donchyaknow?

Tonight I found an awesome store in South Minneapolis.  Elevated.elevated

Located at 4135 Hiawatha Avenue, I was slightly dismayed when I walked in and was greeted with a wall–yes, a WALL, of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.  This was the store recommended to me by a wine buyer?

Walking through the first aisle, and barely a wine in the $20 range, I knew I was going to be impressed.  These are not bottles of Barefoot or Yellowtail that litter a $3.99 bin, but rather had drama, intrigue and all the darkness of a goth’s angst-ridden teen years one wants to see on a label. (I was obviously walking through the reds.  I left behind the rainbows and ponytails of the whites for now).

$*&^.00 later, I walked out happy.  And with a wine bag that will score me 10% off future purchases.  I already met my maximum amount for the discount, as Chuck and Jim were great–as excited about my wine buys as they are about the upcoming Vikings game.   (Pssst.  I even bought some Minnesota whiskey and beer.  In cans.)

Go.  Now.

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A quiet, summer repose: Reposo 2008

Ever have those years that just seem hectic?

Try moving during Ironman season (note: I’ve been off the saddle and on the wagon awhile).  Between driving, interviewing, biking, and getting my heart rate down after being sick, I decided I needed to dive back into a bottle (or 7–just went shopping tonight) and get my groove back on. photo-78

Repos0 2008 is part of the Pago Casa Gran winery in Valencia, Spain.  The wine is an blend of equal parts Gewrztraminer and Moscatel, and while any Andrea-abiding friend knows that sweet isn’t her forte, my spicy chicken curry needed something more soothing than a red wine to bitch-slap that heat. (I’ve had enough mental anguish this year.  I need not more).

The wine has delicately blended flavors of yellow apple, pear, grape, honeysuckle, and something akin to fresh smoke lingering over wet slate–it’s enticing, but the veil is not pulled back to unleash an assault on the senses. It was off-dry, but not sweet and paired nicely with the spice of curry.

A gift from a friend for the wine of the month club, this wine is a great deal at $6.99.  Great. Deal.  I enjoyed the wine, and didn’t want for anything else afterward.  I would give the wine a nice 2-3 solid stars, and yes, am getting up early for tomorrow’s ride.

 

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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.

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Stay tuned….

“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.

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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.

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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!

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Que Syrah, Syrah.

Whatever worries you have in this world, you will forget them with the first taste of this wine, Barrique Cellar’s 2009 Syrah from Sonoma County.

Syrah

But if I were to remember those worries, it would be about my tendencies  as of late to buy French wine, but this bottle (and yes, foreshadowing to the final review, it was the entire bottle) made me believe in America again and all that is good.

I know I should start with the fruit flavors (they were there–ripe, jammy plums, baked currants, softened blackberries), but I won’t.  This wine was was silk.  Smooth, medium bodied fruit intertwined like Italian lace with smoky leather and soft cedar, licorice and a dusting of pepper flavors.  The alcohol–at 13.5%–was there, but seemingly hid in a shadowed corner, like Boo Radley taking on a protective gaze over Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

This wine was also comfortable and familiar. The body, tannin, flavor and lingering notes invited me into a leather-book lined library at dusk where a soft wool rug awaited me before an unlit fireplace as Van Morrison melted a ballad out of the nearby speaker.

I am lucky, this bottle was a gift (I have great friends), but the little bird on the bottle told me it was from Schneiders in DC on Capitol Hill.   I didn’t know it at the time, but I skipped straight to the workout to drink the bottle, and have no regrets.

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Battling the Tuesday Blues: MollyDooker’s “The Boxer” Shiraz

Ever have those Tuesdays that feel like a Monday? Today was that day.

A full day of work sandwiched between three workouts–TRX, a bike, a run–and a whole lotta Tuesday blues in between.  After the bike helmet came off and the robe and slippers came on, I consciously said to myself as I went into the kitchen, “Don’t go for the wine.  You don’t need a glass every night. Think of the spandex.”

But as I passed by the fridge on the way to make the salad, the broccoli and the turkey, the ubiquitously screw-capped bottle of Australian Shiraz mocked my self-control.  Leave it to the Aussies to make it that much easier.  (Side note: This was also a bottle a friend brought over for dinner, so I have a little wine guilt about not opening it for the dinner.  Definitely a Ms. Manners faux pas I decided I could erase if the bottle went away).

Boxer

As many are, I was a little leery of the cap and the painstakingly clever and designed label–the French would never stoop to the low of putting a cartoon on a clever-titled wine.  And to label it, The Boxer? “Pshaw” (huffed with a French accent).

But as soon as the first taste went past my lips, and my mouth hummed in recognition of the heat-filled berries of a McLaren Vale Shiraz, I felt the honor of our brethren to the way, way South redeemed.  Cooked, fruity and jammy, the plum flavors danced against some deeper spice notes of oak and chocolate.  Medium tannin, medium acid, the wine had a nice medium (sense a theme?) finish to it.  However, the alcohol, in tune with the heat from its origins, was slightly high (Translation: 15.5% alcohol).  Overall, the wine was balanced, on its toes, and ready to take on the night or any red-blooded protein, if even a little tipsy.

I’m glad I worked out before drinking “The Boxer” because I could easily lose myself in the bottle.  Ping that friend to call you in the morning to make sure you work out if you take home this bottle, because at Australian prices, this wine is definitely more lover than fighter — you might not want to get out of bed in the morning either way.

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Firsts

I believe in starting New Year’s resolutions, or resolutions for any occasion, early.  This year, mine started at Thanksgiving as I realized I couldn’t live with the question, “What if?” any more.  What if I took training seriously? What if I dedicated and focused on those things that made me happy?  It’s a scary thought, but in a way, my resolution was to commit myself to me.

For triathlons, I decided to become a technology geek for my next Ironman, which is a first for me as I’ve had the Larry Bird low-brow attitude of training to this point.  I bought a new bike meant for triathlon and a new heart rate monitor that does everything except wake me up in the morning. (I just haven’t learned how to program that yet).

I also wanted to experience wine in new ways.  What if I could rely on myself to decode a wine list?  What if I picked out bottles for the wine itself, and not the price point or label?

In a way, my resolutions were about independence through new experiences, trials and errors. Hamlet‘s greatest downfall is that he never was able to make a decision, and I recognized that at some point in my life, I would have to make the move from “what if” regarding matters important to me, to one of action.

This week I started training for Ironman #4, and so it made sense that I also begin this blog as an “action” statement in search of those wines that help balance my hectic days.  Stay tuned–first review coming shortly.

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