Tuesday, March 25, 2008

red burgundy table wine.


x-fact ~ a bottle of wine wrapped simply with a ribbon tied in a bow is a gift that can never go wrong. and will always be appreciated.

red burgundy table wine france 2006
paid gift...priceless
reg. @9-10

sis in the city brought this to me on easter. the bottle is so very familiar and i know i've had it before. though i cannot remember it for the life of me. regardless, it wouldn't have mattered. i was happy for the gift.

again, about bringing wine as a hostess gift, the host/ess is not required to set it out for consumption that evening. and if he or she chooses to set it aside and serve another bottle, this is not considered rude!

chances could be that there is a set wine the host/ess has chosen for the food being served, or that others before you have arrived with bottle in hand and there is more than enough, OR the bottle you are giving is of a way better quality/label than the one he or she is serving and so it is being put aside for another time.

in this case, my dear sister who is also quite hip to the art of the hostess gift and my love of wine, not only brought this bottle bedecked in a fetching and jaunty red grosgrain ribbon as a gift for me, but she also brought another bottle for sharing at the easter feast.

folks, this is a good woman. if you have friends or relatives like this, treat them well. there should be more people like this in the world. or at least a statue or wall somewhere dedicated to people like this.

i chose to save this particular bottle because we had more than enough for the feast and because i knew there would be an evening this week that it would come in "handy."

in. deed.

and it did tonight. oh, i could go on about the joys of teaching one's young son the art and madness that is borrowing and carrying in subtraction and addition, the havoc that is wreaked on one's calves after two full days of standing at stove and counter chopping and cooking and assembling for a family holiday meal, or the fact that turning on the news these days is about as much fun re-reading one hundred years of solitude or re-watching american beauty.

oh keep your tomatoes! i hated them both and nobody and nothing can make me feel different.

anyhow, where was i?

oh yes. the gift of wine. ah, there is reprieve from the longest presidential race in history and the fact that this country has perfected the art of and as a result is now offering customized one way trips to hell in a hand basket.

this is a beautiful wine. garnet colored and gorgeous in the waning light of a green and wet early spring day.

it had a very nice first sip. needs some warming, but smooth enough for the wine it is. at second and third sip whilst trying to tie up some loose ends on e-mail i didn't notice anything but how much i enjoyed sipping it.

it's got a nice light feel. easy. it doesn't try too hard to be anything other than the red table wine it is and i appreciate that immensely. this is a non-thinking wine.

as i've mentioned before, oftentimes i don't want to have to think about what i'm drinking. am i appreciating this enough? have i paid too much for this bottle? what would i say about this wine if someone asked? how come a 90210 spin-off and not dawson's creek?

oh. wait. where was i?

this is a wine for people who know and love wine, or for people who don't know wine but they like to drink it.

this wine would pair well with eating. hey, i know that sounds weird, but it's a fact that while people think of wine with food as a norm, actually there are a lot of wines i wouldn't think of drinking with food. too soft, too overpowering, too ??? to pair with food.

but not this wine. this wine is a red table wine! all purpose! made for the table! perhaps an afternoon filled with family and friends, a gang of kids, a table groaning with food.

even in this day and age the women all gathered in the kitchen kvetching, laughing, sharing, moving from table to counter to stove to fridge plating and arranging and loading the table with delicious hors d'oeuvre.

generous mushroom caps stuffed to bursting, soft cheeses and crusty baguette slices, small teacups filled with spring pea soup, cheesy olive bread hot and salty and straight from the oven.

sipping and visiting and nibbling and working this wine would pair well with the hors d'oeuvre. a perfect match to such disparate flavors. but the meal is the main event is it not? and yet, this wine, again the admirable hallmark of the red table wine, is just as good with the meal as with the starters.

and what a meal.

fresh ham slow cooked and enrobed in a brown sugar, dijon mustard, and ground clove glaze sliced hot and fresh at table, zucchini gratin artfully arranged, baby carrots steamed and served with a ginger hollandaise, creamy, cheesy, browned just right scalloped potatoes, and a home baked portuguese sweet bread complete with decorative hard cooked eggs nestled in the braid of the loaf.

in and out as the rain allows, it still being very early spring in the pacific northwest, the eggs are hidden and hunted between bouts of showers.

ah, this was easter here at the big red house. and while i kept this bottle to myself and we didn't drink it that day, the fact is it would have been perfect.

a wine like this works so very well for a meal like that. everyone bringing something to contribute, you can't fully coordinate the flavors, you want a real easy going wine to drink alongside.

and you just can't go wrong with a red table wine. going to a picnic or a barbecue or a winter drinks party and you don't know what to bring? bring a red table wine. and trust me, you. really. can't. go. wrong.

it's meant to be neutral in that it just is, and the price is generally pretty easy on any budget. what more could you ask for in a wine?

wrap that puppy in a ribbon tied in a bow and i tell you, watch a girl swoon. or a boy. however it works out in your world, you just can't go wrong.

here's a tip. you want to be a real bad ass when it's a housewarming party? pick one wine and buy two bottles. give one bottle for "drinking together to celebrate your new home tonight!" and one "for drinking on your first year in your new home anniversary!" be really great and label that bottle prettily and definitely with the 1st year anniversary date. (and your name of course)

aannnddd you're a peach! a peach who will likely get an invitation to share said bottle on said anniversary, perhaps with a meal alongside.

people do love a peach. people do love to feed a peach.

wine. the gift that just keeps on giving.

spread the joy. share the wine. be generous.

these are tough times for everyone and i tell ya, it's gonna be the little things that matter most.

so don't skimp when it comes to manners and generosity when you've been invited over to share in someone's home, someone's meal at their table, made with their hands and love. ever.

it doesn't take much, much less than you think, and goes farther than you'll ever know.

because we're all in this together.

and better yet, what you put out, you get back in spades.

better than a one way customized trip to hell in a hand basket, no?

friendship's the wine of life! lets drink of it and to it!

a votre sante!


Thursday, March 6, 2008


x-fact ~ pronounced san-joh-vay-say or san-joh-vez. i've heard both. but, since i'm not an expert, pick the one you like! or the one that sounds the best after a glass or two.

ali sangiovese di toscana 2006
paid ??
reg. 9.99

i've had this before, but the forever designated driver was responsible for procuring this particular bottle. if memory serves, i do believe this has been at my store for 8.99 or something like that for the last bit of time.

it's a pretty bottle, the shape and the label. but, if you look carefully, the character/angel/peter frampton on halloween on the front is a bit creepy. there's a lot going on in that sketch. from afar, however, it is attractive and fetching. fabulous evenings have been built on this premise and even less, so i just say go for it.

this wine is good. a really rich color and smell in the glass. it's light on the tongue and real smooth going down.

despite it's lightness and smoothness, it's got a nice hit to it. it benefits from a bit of time in the glass being held. you know me, i like a wine that's had some body contact.

the thing is though, it's a bit of a lonely wine. meaning, i think it doesn't really like drinking alone.

perhaps it's because it's tuscan, perhaps it's just social by nature, but it seems like it would be a better sip if sipped with food.

in fact, and i could be making this up because i'm a writer and accomplished drinker and therefore given to my own reality, BUT if my addled memory serves me correctly i do believe the other time i had this wine it was with a wonderful italian dish i made awhile ago.

though i do gas on about the benefits of boxed wine in the post that contained the recipe, i do believe the wine i had with the meal was this one.

why do i remember that? how do i remember that? (i remember nothing. the original blank slate)

no matter! a crispy polenta round topped with a delectable and deeply and richly layered in flavor sausage and mushroom sauce. mmmm, boy was that good. oh, and so. very. easy.

just like this wine. it's so unobtrusive, but not in the way the forgettable wines are. but in the way a good companion wine is. a delicious wine, but one that can not only pair well with intense foods, but practically begs to be.

a true tuscan! that most romantic and yet overexposed patch of land. ah! tuscany! like the lindsey lohan or paris hilton or britney spears of vacation destinations, there is such a thing as overexposure even for the classics.

but what tuscany has that none of those other come and gone flavors of the moment have is actual beauty, endless grace, and an unrivaled sense of place.

i imagine tuscany to be the sophia loren of the business. timeless, gorgeous, the start and the end. and everything in between.

bathed in sun and olive oil and wine, tuscany is the gold standard. and when all the hoopla dies down, it will still be as gorgeous and relevant and magical as it was before. century after century.

and so goes the pairing of a wonderful red wine with a fabulous meal.

and yet, not always a given. just because you have a good wine and a good meal it doesn't mean they will pair well.

like most pairs in life, chemistry is key.

without that chemistry, you get harrison ford and anne heche in 6 days, 7 nights. /shudder.

with that chemistry, you get harrison ford and melanie griffith in working girl. /grin.

and if you are very very lucky, you will get meryl streep and clint eastwood in bridges of madison county.

never ever underestimate the lasting power and the lifelong impetus of a great wine and food pairing.

i'm not one of those who say this wine is the only wine for this food. BUT, like each. and. every. one. of. us. good food and good wine both deserve to shine. to be appreciated for their fabulousness.

drowning your meal with overpowering wine or overpowering your wine with an intense meal doesn't do anyone any favors.

appreciating flavor is one of the greatest gifts we are given. let us celebrate that in as many ways as we can.

i wish you great meals and even better wine to drink with them!

chin chin!


Saturday, March 1, 2008


Central Coast

x-fact ~ wine is emotional.

firefly ridge central coast syrah 2005
paid 7.99
reg. 14.99

(i KNOW, huh? 7 bucks off?)

i do wish i had a label to share. alas.

i saw this wine at safeway several months ago. i noticed the label and couldn't decide if i thought it was sweet or swill. perfect.

but, at 14.99 i passed it by. natch.

today as i went about my errands that concerned the acquiring of provisions for a feverish and throw-upping child and a forever designated driver wracked by body aches and timidness of stomach, i was also thinking of a dear friend who had passed on this weekend 4 years ago.

my mood was somewhat somber, not helped by my trip to safeway. a store i don't frequent a lot and frequently doesn't stock a lot of what i would buy. and let's just let the snob out of the bag and say these are not my people.

oh hell, who am i kidding!?! if there were such a place populated by my people you know i'd probably never visit anyway. /shudder.

BUT, safeway has a respectable wine selection that more than frequently has more than a few good deals.

so, oddly on this day i was drawn to the back wall. a section of fancier and more pricey labels that i don't really check out. ever. and there it was, a bottle i recognized and never really considered. and right then i thought how my dear friend who had passed would have very much liked the label. so i picked it up just to look.

and wouldn't you know it, it was 7.99 down from 14.99? (i never see deals like this at safeway!) so i grabbed it up. the only bottle left.

you know, i like it. at first i was a bit concerned. it went down really easy, but without any kind of real flavor. or body. but very pleasant nonetheless. a great color, though. it looks really inviting in the glass.

at second and third sip it remains just as pleasant, but doesn't gain a lot in flavor. it practically floats on the tongue and feels like nothing at the back of the throat. oftentimes a good tasting wine on the tongue can give the throat a bit of a bracing pass through. this wine didn't. nor did it become any more flavorful.

it had a good smell and wonderful legs too, but pretty much stayed the same taste wise throughout.

i couldn't help but think of my friend while drinking it, though. how much she loved the central coast of california where this wine comes from, something we shared but something she partook of more than i was able to. and too, how she loved the sweet that i usually found swill. isn't the love of friendship grand in that the really good ones can sustain complete chasms of similar taste?

oddly, though, the fact that if she were here with me, we'd BOTH be enjoying this bottle with nary a thought. and so, you know, i wasn't really concerned with all of that other *wine business*. i didn't need the big body and the juice of flavor, i was content in my reverie.

wine is relationship for me. i'm at the age now wherein i have trouble remembering some friends and lovers, but there is cellular memory in wine. like a song or a smell, wine will take me back.

to this day i can't drink a montepulciano d'abruzzo without remembering that it was my first ever sip of a "good" wine. and a better memory. courtesy of a cloudless day, a bend in a nameless river, and a beautiful boy who brought it to my lips. sigh double sigh.

i can't drink a chardonnay without thinking of my first AND ONLY purchase of alcohol with a fake i.d.! HA! so fitting that it would be wine!

oh, and the lazy hazy afternoon that followed with the illicit purchases in my favorite small town with good friends and that endlessly endless way early incarnation of mazzy star as background music. sadly, and you never see it coming because you will always be friends forever, none of them exist in my own universe anymore, except when i have that first cold and perfect sip of chardonnay. sigh.

and lord, did my dear friend who passed love a port. i can't sip port without thinking of her. when she died her childhood best friend who grew into my forever best friend and i shared a bottle of her favorite port. but only 2/3 of the bottle. when she was cremated, the last 1/3 of the bottle, her share, bottle and all was tossed in with her.

yes. you can do that. and mixed in with her ashes you will see these beautiful, "unexplainable" unless you knew better, green *crystals*.

a fine and everlasting tribute to a wonderful wonderful and sorely sorely missed friend.

i can see drinking this wine while having lunch al fresco. a simple table set in someone's garden. a bit too hot. the flies never leave you alone. but the fresh grown tomatoes still warm from the sun they were growing in not an hour earlier mixed with the gorgeous green of the olive oil and the crisp and creamy white of a fresh mozzarella means nothing else matters. not the flies. not the heat.

this wine is a fabulous complement to the lovely yet simple elements of a classically beautiful meal. it's not too bold to disturb the wonderful flavors, nor does it need anything else to hold it up to being deliciously drinkable.

and seriously, who needs remarkable when you have homegrown tomatoes and the company of a good friend?

light and floating, this wine could take you all the way from the lingering lunch to a sliced up watermelon plunked on the table in a great heavy platter. slices are grabbed without benefit of plates while more wine is poured.

and i can say on good authority that i know my dear friend would have really enjoyed this wine, and better yet would have kept the empty bottle long after our lunch and my departure and indeed would have put some odd garden bouquet in it later in the summer. more than once.

while i wouldn't pay full price for this bottle, i'm glad i got to experience it. it's a good if not great wine, but what it lacks in anything it more than makes up for in the fact that it can kinda just go with the flow and be okay.

hey, that's not a bad thing. it's not gonna make you stupid or mask your meal. it's a handsome bottle for the table and the label invokes a playful spirit. plus, it brings to mind wonderful memories of a wonderful friend.

friendship is a moment. to be cherished and celebrated as. much. as. possible.

because it can be fleeting and short lived and all of that.

love your friends. drink wine.

drink wine with your friends and make your own touchstones. life is such that you just may need them more than you know.

all these places had their moments
with lovers and friends
i still can recall
some are dead and some are living
in my life i've loved them all