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What We Drank To Protest Pennsylvanian Puritanism

Vinted on October 24, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

I live in one of the most puritanically backward states in the Union.

I know, this should’ve dawned on me some time ago, but I never said I was quick study. It took hosting our hairdresser and his boyfriend for dinner to make me fully realize how ass-backward PA really is. [ Editor’s note: Yes, the hairdresser is actually gay. Sometimes dogs pee right on the fire hydrant, too, okay? Just because it sounds cliché doesn’t mean that it doesn’t actually happen from time to time. If I could have made him a firefighter instead of a hairdresser I would do it, not that there is anything wrong with being a gay hairdresser, but it would’ve sounded more original. In any case, it wouldn’t have been true, so just get over it! ]

I’m not actually talking about the fact that Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that operate as an anti-capitalist monopoly regarding the sale and distribution of alcohol. That’s just the tip of the disquieting, anti-intellectual iceberg. Or that PA seems to be in a near-continual battle to have creationism taught in schools, as if it were actually a science, which it’s not (not even close). [ Editor’s note: Don’t get me started on this… but since we did get started, I feel it’s worth noting that there are very few areas of science which have both overwhelming evidence in support of their theories and insanely good track records of measurable predictability. Three of these are quantum physics, the General Relativity theory (including gravitation), and… evolution. Saying one doesn’t “believe” in evolution is more or less akin to saying that one doesn’t “believe” in gravity. Neither gravity nor evolution nor quantum physics – nor all of the evidence in support of all three, of which there is… well, a lot – care that you don’t agree with them, they just *are* and they go right on predicting outcomes to insanely long decimal points of accuracy. ]

The kicker for me is that Pennsylvania has yet to recognize same-sex marriages. The whole thing is getting embarrassing, frankly. It’s like we made it out of 1957, only no one bothered to tell most of my state (or its legislators). At this point the natural reaction is to think, “well, why don’t you just move somewhere else, dumb ass?” Which of course fails to take into account everything else – family, neighborhood, friends, school systems, jobs – particularly the fact that otherwise I love the state enough to want to actually change things for the better here.

Anyway, despite our hairdresser’s boyfriend having worked as a bartender, neither of our guests professes to be well-versed in wine. And so the idea was to expose these guys to vinous stuff that they might not get to try very often, but that was also tasty enough to be enjoyed without too much context or “geeking.” Tasty enough to temporarily salve the pain inflicted by the policies of their home state? Well, let’s just say we all managed to forget about PA’s anachronistic transgressions for at least one evening…

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What We Drank With The Greeks (When I Had No Greek Wine)

Vinted on October 3, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

1,200 bottles of samples in the basement, and not one Greek wine among them.

What. The. HELL?!!?

This would happen to me, since I was on the hook for bringing wine to a family dinner date with our neighbors, the Voutsakis clan, who you will have already suspected by reading their name are Greek and would be cooking homemade Greek fare.

The Voutsakis family (father, mother and three young children) is as easy-going and neighborly as they come, thankfully, and for nearly the entire day leading up to our dinner Lorelai was practically beside herself with freakish five-your-old joy at the prospect of playing for hours with their kids (anything for the only child to be able to escape grown-up talk for a few hours, right?). So we weren’t going to let the severe lack of Greek wine samples deter us.

But while the Voutsakis patriarch, Frank, is a lawyer by trade, he’s an aesthete by heart, and we frequently go off together on conversational tangents about politics, literature, wine, and geekish things like the relative importance and levels of raw talent between composers Mahler and Sibelius (you know… important stuff!). He’s also the author of a well-received novel about life in Greece in the 1920s (The Sapphire Elixir), in which wine plays a not-unimportant role. Soooo… I wanted to make sure we got some Greek-food-friendly but also serious (and potentially seriously good) juice.

Here are the samples upon which I took my chances…

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Wine Pleasure Through The Whining Pain (Foxen Recent Releases)

Excruciating pain has a way of giving you additional focus.

I’m learning this the hard way, courtesy of a degenerated L5-S1 lumbar disk which is causing a bulge that my spinal cord finds disagreeable (“disagreeable” as in “excruciating sciatica that is more painful than when I broke a bone in my hand and is now at the point of nearly debilitating me”).

I mention this as framing only, because when you’re on the road (in this case, a paying gig handling social media ambassador duties for the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium) dealing with this kind of pain, it takes something special for you to bother expending the energy required to really focus on it. You’ve got to seriously want it, and it has to be seriously worth it.

That’s the best way I can sum up my time tasting a handful of the twenty nine (!) different wines offered by Foxen’s vintner Dick Doré and winemaker Bill Wathen during a brief trek through Santa Maria a few weeks ago; that they’re worth your focus.

Doré was scruffily unshaven (not judging – so was I!), down to earth and amicable, touring me with the occasional waves of his long and lanky arms through their new winery that sites a short distance down the road from the barn in which Foxen had been making wine for about twenty-five years. Foxen is one of those unassuming producers that sits under the radar, but gets a knowning nod when discussed among wine geeks. I got the impression from Doré that they like it that way, and that they’ve yet to fully grow into the skin of a three-year-old facility that would be modest by most California Disneyworld-like tasting room standards…

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The Riesling Up-And-Comers That You’re Probably Ignoring (Riesling Rendezvous 2013)

You’d think that, as a self-professed Riesling freak, I’d have been in a Happy Place that was damn near orgasmic in attending the 2013 Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, as a media guest of the organizers.

And you’d be right, of course. For Riesling lovers, this was “I’d better go change my pants again” kind of tasting event, with Riesling stalwarts (and their wines) assembled from all over the globe (with the oddly notably exception of Alsace, of which not a drop was poured over the weekend).

But that’s not a good story. I mean, as tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good as some of the Rieslings from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Robert Weil, Dr. Loosen (the good doctor Ernie was in the house at RR, by the way) and A. Christmann can be… is it really that interesting to tell you that they’re still tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good? Not really, methinks (now there’s a word that doesn’t get enough airtime these days!).

No, the story is about the Rieslings that aren’t quite as tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good, but are still pretty damn good, the Rieslings that hail from locations that would surprise most of the Riesling purists out there. And I should know, since I participated in two sessions of twenty blind-tasted Rieslings during which MWs, winemakers, sommeliers and wine media pros all took turns mostly getting the provenance of those wines totally and completely wrong. Which means that Riesling now being made worldwide is probably getting better, converging on a consistent flavor and aroma profile “fingerprint,” and now more than ever before offers more quality choices for those who are willing to explore some of the Riesling-producing areas whose names aren’t yet on the tip of your tongue, but whose wines probably ought to be…

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