Happy Birthday, Baby

It seems impossible to believe but little $12 taste buds is one year old today.  (Is it a birthday or an anniversary?  Let’s go with birthday.)

I still react this way whenever cake is served.

I still react this way whenever cake is served.

I’m feeling a bit of pressure to do something momentous, something to mark the occasion.  I’m feeling like you all are expecting me to say “Well, after a year of drinking lots of wine and writing about it, what I can say is…” and that’s where things start to unravel a bit.

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

So here’s the thing: if I were to pick one wine that embodied the whole $12 taste bud spirit, the wine that costs about $12 but always hits the mark, the wine that is there for you with meatloaf on Tuesday night and when friends pop over on Sunday, that wine would be…a little California Zinfandel called Temptation (I am actually drinking a glass now and having a bit of trouble typing).  I like this little wine both for what is inside the bottle as well as what’s outside.  Just look at that label. It has generated quite a few dinnertime conversations…

First of all, Eve has man arms (obviously from wrestling with temptation).  Adam has luxurious curly brown locks but Eve seems to be sporting a really bad perm.  The label depicts its own spin on the Original Sin as Eve is not dangling an apple in front of Adam, she’s holding grapes.  I’m just guessing here, but they’re probably Zinfandel grapes.  That said, I have never seen a vine quite so large that one could stand under it.  But clearly, I don’t get out much.

So of course the next thing one must ponder is what exactly is Eve saying to Adam as she hoists this bunch of grapes.  I think it’s something like “Adam, we could learn a little delayed gratification here and not eat the grapes right now but, you know, somehow ferment them for later enjoyment, perhaps with some barbecued ribs?”  However, Adam may be a little touchy about ribs.

Adam’s reply could be “Great idea Eve!  I could stomp the grapes with my feet and make them squishy like juice.”  Adam, with his face hidden in the shadow like that, is very difficult to read.  Enough about the outside of the bottle.

I may have mentioned that I am, as I write this, drinking a glass of Temptation.  I get a strong hit of cherry flavored Vick’s cough drops on the nose (I happen to like Vick’s so that’s not a bad thing) and a corresponding bit of black cherry on the palate.  This wine has a nice full and tingly mouthfeel, probably from tannins (but you know how I get confused about tannins).  We’ve had this wine with meatloaf, scrambled eggs, pizza, leftover pork roast, and just about every thing you can think of to grill.  It’s just kind of a nice go-to table wine.  It has also unseated my beloved Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin.

So here’s to you, my fellow bloggers (raising my glass) for making this first year of wine blogging so darn much fun.  I learn from you all every time I read a post, and I’m not sure how I got along without you.  *Clink*

 

 

 

The Long And Winding Post

The theme for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge is luck.

Everyone, meet "Lucky".

Everyone, meet “Lucky”.

Lucky the turtle is the creation of Montana artist Kirsten Kainz (Yep, another Kirsten.  Go us).  I procured Lucky as a gift for my husband who is the guy you see stopped alongside the road helping a turtle get across safely.  He keeps a pair of leather gloves in his car at all times just for this purpose.  He is brave enough to grab hold of a snapping turtle and move him safely off the road (this may or may not be a welcome gesture on the part of the turtle).  It literally swells my heart whenever my husband does this.

Did you know that turtles symbolize, among other things, home?  Yup.  Literally a “home on your back.”  There is also a bunch of symbolism in certain cultures about land and sea and the turtle bridging them, but to me, that whole “home” thing is what I find meaningful.

Which brings me to my point about home.   Other than Lucky no other turtles live with us, unless they are wild, outdoors, and beautifully adept at keeping their presence a secret.  I’m sure someone out there has befriended a snapping turtle and brought him into the house but I am just fine with enjoying live turtles in their wild state and keeping an artistic rendition of their turtleness in the house.  I love turtles, and all they symbolize, but I feel their place is in the wild and I am grateful, honestly, that we still see them creeping across the road from time to time.

Which brings me to my point about my husband.  I am glad he is moved to help turtles.  He is a very kind and thoughtful person (when he is not being inattentive).  Experiencing the humble act of moving a turtle across the road does, believe it or not, make one thankful for certain attributes of one’s partner.  I could not be married to a man that drove over a turtle, be it oblivious or otherwise.  Nope.  I wish to share my life and house and home with someone who is thoughtful and kind and respectful.

Which brings me to my point about wine.  When you share a life with someone you share many, many things:  bathrooms, favorites hoodies, Coen brothers’ movies, a hatred of fast food, a love of wine.  And wine, as we all know, is best when it is shared.  I rarely — okay, occasionally — drink a glass of wine alone.  I much prefer to share a glass with my husband.  I really do enjoy it more.  Everyone who writes a blog about wine eventually brings up the point that wine is best when it is enjoyed in good company.

And so our little tale of turtles, home, husbands, and wine comes to an end.  But a happy one, I hope.  Cheers.

wine-stain1-2

Wine Shaming

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I admit it:  I am a hardened and shameless procrastinator.  I wait until inspiration strikes.  Inspiration, by the way, only strikes when fueled by a looming deadline.  (So get off my back TDC; we can’t all crank out witty writing day after day.  We aren’t all that…lucky.)

But Wait! There’s More!

the three, amigos

the three, amigos

I warned you that the Tempranillo chronicles would continue.  The wine shop had cases and cases of the stuff on sale a couple of weeks ago.  A sign from the universe?  Oh, most decidedly so.

I chose these three Tempranillos primarily on their price, averaging about $15 per bottle (and therefore not terribly taxing to the old $12 buds).  And lest you think that I still paid too much, the prices I’ve listed here are the shelf label prices and not the sale prices.  No one told me there would be math.

DSCN4627

One day I will iron that table cloth. BAhahaha!

The Yellow One

A confession:  I’ve walked past this label a thousand times over the years.  In my head it says “tequila” although why I would think tequila would be stocked with wine is anyone’s guess.  So finally I gave the bottle the attention it deserved.

A deep red violet in the glass and a bit of rubber tire on the nose, the 2011 Campo Viejo Rioja backed me off a little.  But on the palate I tasted lots of fruit and a surprising hint of floral.  This wine had that Tempranillo “tingle” too.  I felt for the $13 price this wine tasted kind of exactly like I expected:  not great, but not bad.  We had it mid-week alongside a meatloaf and salad and I think it suited the meal.

The Orange One

DSCN4687

I liked the look of the sunshine glinting off the wine in the bottle.

Not a straight-up Tempranillo (85%, to be exact) I had big expectations for this $18 2008 Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva.  I was disappointed.  It was a very deep garnet in the glass but the nose was not all that easy to decipher…some anise, maybe?  The wine was a little jammy with perhaps a tiny hint of licorice, and that Tempranillo “tang” (although, who knows?  that could have been the graciano or mazuelo).  With this wine we paired a chicken cordon bleu and some steamed baby peas.  My overall impression was “meh.”  This wine just didn’t make much of an impression.

The One With the Deer

DSCN4722

Google says that “el coto” means “the boundary” or “the enclosure.”

Again, judging a wine by its label, I expected to love this one, and I did actually like it the best of the three.  The El Coto 2009 Rioja Crianza is 100% Tempranillo and I paid $15 for it.  Garnet in the glass with a subtle nose I found the wine fruity and tingly.  We paired this one with a sage-encrusted roast pork and a risotto made with mushroom stock.  It was a good match.  This wine reminds me a lot of the Finca Museum Vinea Crianza which is my favorite Tempranillo thus far in my storied tasting history.  Still, in my little wine journal I rated El Coto 4+ stars out of 5.

The upshot?  I still haven’t found a Tempranillo that I flat out love, but I think it’s out there.  I need to dig a little deeper to find it.

A Pitiful Attempt

wine-stain1-2The theme for this month’s wine writing challenge is devotion.

Who knew devotion was going to be so hard to write about?  I wanted to write about a group of people in California who share a strange but wonderful devotion, each to a specific old vine, and these folks hike to their vine in all seasons just to visit.  I learned about this from the stellar 4488: A Ridge Blog.  But I can’t write about this phenomenon any better than the 4488: A Ridge Blog has already done, and besides, to do so would be outright plagiarism.

As if to encourage a weekend of writing nature arranged a snow storm that delivered a whopping eight inches of snow (this is a ton of snow by east Tennessee standards).   I have had this on my to-do list for five straight days:  MWWC7 post.   Even snowed in I still never worked on any writing.

Instead, I sequestered myself and watched all 13 new episodes of House of Cards.  I devoted the weekend  – after deactivating my Facebook, turning off my phone, and employing SpoilerFoiler — to House of Cards.   And what have I to show for it?  This photo:

I got this photo from the fine folks on Pinterest.

Claire sips a white:  I got this photo from the fine folks on Pinterest.

Yes, they drink quite a bit of wine in House of Cards.  Grapefriend has already chronicled this (and with way better photos than I could find).   Again, I find myself tiptoeing around plagiarism.

It pains me to admit that I am not as devoted to writing as I would like to be.  But I am devoted to the cadre of writers that regularly contribute to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.  I read their posts and marvel at their skill as writers and at their generosity as humans.  They are quite simply a wonderful group.  I admire their devotion to both crafts, those of wine and writing.

When you watch a show like House of Cards you are appalled at the devotion you see, a blind devotion to the ruthless pursuit of power.   It’s all very very entertaining but thankfully, not real.  What is real are the people who hike up the side of a mountain in winter for the sake of photographing their favorite Old Zinfandel vine, the people who write passionately about wine week after week and consistently offer up quality writing in the process, and the people who devote their lives to tending the vines (see Jeff’s post on FoodWineClick).

I offer this pitiful attempt of a post to the latter group of writers and workers whose devotion I deeply admire.

My Second Tempranillo: Ah-ha, Crianza!

Crianza

pretty, garnet Vinea Crianza

So, this Tempranillo thing is going well.  After my first post I received excellent coaching from Bill, Anatoli, and Linda.  I dutifully jotted down their notes into my wine journal.  A few days later I strode confidently into the wine shop.  And at that moment realized I’d left my notes at home.

I don’t mind being an amateur at this whole tasting business.  In fact, I love it because every experience is pretty much new for me and still very, very fun.  Last time I visited this particular wine shop I would have bet my paycheck that there was only one Tempranillo on shelf as it was all I could find.  You, savvy reader, knew better; there were of course several Tempranillos available but I wasn’t quite educated enough to look for them.

Back to Bill, Anatoli, and Linda;  they write superb blogs and have guided me on many occasions.  They expanded my vocabulary with “Rioja” and “Crianza” and “Ribera del Duero”, so this time, even though I’d forgotten my notes, I knew what to look for.

I chose the 2009 Crianza by Finca Museum.  I have no idea what “Vinea” on the label means and thus far have been too lazy to look it up.

Finca Museum

Finca Museum

I can tell you that this wine is 100% Tinta del pais (Tempranillo) from Spain.  It was the “crianza” that caught my eye at first and I paid about $20.  I picked up on the aroma when I poured the first glass, and I found it to be sort of mushroomy, kind of like damp earth, but only a little.  Where the Toro was big and tingly the Crianza was subtle.  I had to concentrate to pick out the flavors in that first mouthful and found only a tiny hint of caramel and tobacco.  I had intended to whip up a little dinner to go with the wine, but I found it so soft and balanced that instead I drank the entire glass sans accompaniment.

The next night I decided that my husband needed to try this wine, so we had it with a little smoked salmon (probably not an ideal pairing but it was all that was in the house).  I found the wine to be more fruity on day 2 and while it was still balanced I smelled and tasted a hint of berry this time.  I can’t get over how different the Crianza is from the Toro; one whispers whereas the other kind of shouts.  At this point I prefer the Crianza over the Toro.

I am so excited to have discovered Tempranillo and I must warn you that I will be chronicling this journey.  Oh yes, more posts will follow…