Monday, January 25, 2010

Adventures in Wine #2 - January 2010

With a slightly different group, we gathered again. This time we were blind tasting - comparing grapes, and new world vs old world. Discerning the flavors and learning to put a name to that flavor is a skill for which we all strive. Do you taste earthiness, minerality, black cherries, citrus? How about wet earth, chalk, teachers (no, not the last one; that was just a hilarious moment). How oaked is it? Being guided by a passionate expert, it becomes a great learning experience. There were brief moments when our Wine Host lost control of the group but he managed to wrest it back amidst the laughter. And when he waxed on a bit too long in his enthusiasm, his able assistant gave him a gentle nudge to move along.

One member of the group is an Executive Chef and we prevailed upon him to bring the appetizers this time. At our last gathering, he had brought the bulk of the food and anything anyone else had brought paled in comparison. So this excellent decision resulted in a gourmet spread worthy of a fine restaurant.

Wines were kept around the corner and served from within a brown paper bag, identities concealed. Beginning with Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, we compared Chardonnays from France and California, and Rieslings from Germany and Michigan. Moving from whites to reds, next up were Pinot Noirs from France and California. Our one Italian wine was a Sangiovese from Tuscany, and the next four wines were blends from France, Australia, California, and France. (The resulting discussion reminded me of a funny Frasier episode in which Frasier and Niles are competing against each other for Corkmaster of their Wine Club. The final blind taste-off bottle is identified as a Merlot by Niles and a Cabernet by Frasier. The wine is 45% Cabernet and 55% Merlot so Niles wins.) Our last taste-off bottle was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and although we were all sorry to see the evening end, our taste buds were saturated (someone’s lips were numb :) and any further tastings would have been for naught.

It was a very enjoyable evening and here are two important things to take away:

~ Only novices hold up their wine to the light to judge it visually; instead look at it against a white piece of paper.

~ Amateurs are tentative about their opinions; professionals make statements with confidence.

In vino veritas ~

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Acquiring and Discarding

Since I was in my 20s, just married and with my first full-time job, I wanted to acquire things. I had a salary and wanted books, furniture, albums (yes, 33 ½ record albums). Cassette tapes and VHS came out and I needed those too. When “recordable” versions arrived, I ferociously recorded music and movies so I would always have handy anything I wanted.

Shelves to hold my things were necessary as knick-knacks and souvenirs were added. Clothing and jewelry, rugs and art, cookbooks, cooking utensils, and gadgets - my appetite was insatiable. When I had my son, my focus shifted to toys, games, little boy clothes, and anything I thought would enhance his life experience. These items moved along his age continuum and I continued to pour things over him, even when he moved out for the first time.

Now I am in my 50s, looking at 60, and want very little. GoodWill is a constant recipient of my things. Those that have sentimental family value are shipped to family members. My clothes closet is culled at least twice a year and I have empty shelves and hangar space. There are some things with which I cannot part. My mother’s antique teapot and sugar bowl made in Prussia, books that belonged to her father containing his funny inscriptions, a couple of beautiful glass “knick-knacks”, and a partial set of Redwing pottery dishware. Another packed-away box is filled with baby items, a few special blankets and toys, that can bring a tear to my eye just looking at them. Photo albums are stowed on a shelf, though I question their value down the road. Pictures not labeled will be meaningless to my son. Should I go through them and label and date the best I can? Would he care anyway? Probably not. Have you ever seen old photographs for sale in antique stores? It always strikes me as being a little sad. But I digress...

I buy artwork occasionally but need to have a place for it before I bring it home. Books, I still cannot resist. Photos are stored digitally and I have my passwords written down in case I shuffle off this mortal coil unexpectedly. Food and wine are favorite purchases, and I have learned to enjoy the present, magical moment. When I have a chance, I still like to buy things for my son but he resists. We do, however, indulge ourselves with lunch or dinner out every week, at a different restaurant, for conversation and culinary education.

About five years ago, my husband and I stopped at an estate sale down the street. The elderly couple had passed away and their children had hired a company to sell off their goods. We walked through the house and looked at the accumulated items that no family members wanted. The house and garage were stuffed. We bought a few things, antique artifacts, to add to our things, inside and out (yes, I have garden accessories also). But it made me think about what would happen if my husband and I died tomorrow. Our son would inherit a house full of things. Having gone through my mother’s possessions after her death, and I have four siblings, I started to rethink what I wanted to leave for my son. Here’s a house full of stuff, inside and out, a burden for you to deal with - sorry! Striving for simplicity is a worthy goal at any age and I have come to it late in life.

So I am paring down and trying to live more minimalist. We have what we need and that’s good enough. My son will keep all of my books and our artwork, and the baby grand piano. Other than that, I really don’t care. I’ll be gone and life belongs to the living. The things he keeps will be his link to the past but not in a way that drags him down into that past. Everything else will be sloughed off to GoodWill to find its way into someone else’s home that may see that thing as a found treasure. And I’m happy with that. I’m enjoying this very moment and won’t ask for more.