Today marks the 58th Wine Blogging Wednesday event, this month hosted at the witty, pull-no-punches and cleverly-named Gonzo Gastronomy blog.
The theme selected by Gonzo ringleader Katie Pizzuto is one that’s near & dear to my heart – the pairing of wine and music, both topics that I’m passionate about seeing as how much of my free time each of those endeavors takes up!
I’m not actually submitting a separate post for this WBW – instead, I’ll offer up my recent wine & music pairing giveaway, in which you’ll find lots of tasty wine & jazz pairings in the comments section. However… I did want to throw some WBW love over to Katie, both for keeping it real on a regular basis, posting thought-provoking and entertaining articles, and picking a fantastic theme for this month’s WBW.
I’m looking forward to seeing the tasting “notes” (ha-ha!) from this WBW roundup.
I need to go on record right now that I hate Jeff Lefevere*.
Why do I hate Jeff… Well, for one, he has the best-looking wine blog in all of the blog-o-world. If his blog design were a person, it would be Warren Beatty, and it would walk around with a smile and a demure but slightly aloof stance, confident that your wife would do him in a heartbeat and not even think twice about you or your kids, because he’s just that cool.
He (I mean Jeff, not the personified Beatty-esque incarnation of Jeff’s blog) is also a phenomenally talented writer; his prose puts the writing on the majority of wine blogs (including some of those penned by professional writers) to shame.
So, there’s jealousy, That’s clearly one reason.
Also, I don’t understand at all his Vin de Napkin comics, and it pisses me off that I’m possibly too dumb to appreciate them.
I guess that’s also jealously?
Anyway, after today, Jeff pissed me off even more because he’s managed to host the only Wine Blogging Wednesday topic that has completely stumped me (I’m not usually at a loss for words… like, ever…). The theme is “California Inspiration,” which Jeff intended to be a homage to the late and inspirational CA wine icon Robert Mondavi, as this week marks the first anniversary of Mondavi’s passing.
The idea is that we should recount a moment of inspiration, a story centering around a specific wine.
Jeff… you magnificent bastard… you have stumped me. Why? Because while capturing the essence of a fleeting inspirational moment in time might be a talented trained journalist’s idea of a writing warm-up exercise, it’s a bear of an activity for hacks like me.
Curse you, Lefevere! May the fleas of one thousand camels infest your armpits!!!
* – Note: I don’t actually hate Jeff Lefevere. In fact, he is an extremely nice guy with whom I had the pleasure of hanging out during the first Wine Bloggers Conference. I’m just stalling because I don’t have a wittier intro.
Wait. I take that back. I actually do have a story. So, I need to go on record right now that I no longer hate Jeff Lefevere.
You know, if it weren’t for two winemakers, and two specific wines, I might not be writing to you right now.
A few months ago (circa September 2008), I had contemplated giving up wine blogging entirely. I loved writing, and I loved wine. But I wasn’t sure that wine blogging was going to be viable for me. I had a full-time career at a big CPG company. My wife was pregnant. I loved playing in the band, and didn’t see myself curtailing those activities or short-changing my family in the battle for my non-work time. I was pretty sure that wine blogging was going to have to go (it wasn’t exactly paying the bills, either).
There were new wine blogs cropping up pretty much every week. It was a crowded field, and while the majority of those that I’d met who were involved with wine were amazing people, there were enough ‘bad apples’ gunnin’ for me that I felt a little… battle weary.
Then, I got contacted by the staff at Opus One and Penns Woods wineries – two of the finest purveyors of red wine on both coasts – to tour their wineries. Why did they ask me to do this? Because of my writing on 1WineDude. The results of those visits sparked something in my pea-sized, alcohol-wizened brain. “I’m just some punk kid from Delaware – what the hell was I doing talking to these amazing winemaking teams? Holy crap, I’d better take this thing more seriously.”
After getting uber-wine-geeky with Opus One’s Michael Silacci and Penns Woods’ Gino Razzi, I recounted the experiences in the virtual pages of 1WineDude, and put their wines head to head in a blind tasting. Links to the resulting posts are below, and they remain some of my favorites, probably because they convinced me not to hang up the wine bloggin’ spurs:
Since that time, 1WineDude has seen steady and progressive modest success, whether you measure it in terms of income, traffic, subscribers, or – best of all – in the number of readers, bloggers, industry folk, and winemakers that I consider to be friends. If I’d given up last year, I’d have missed out on a crazy amount of life-expanding and enriching experiences. Finding the right balance between family, career, music, and wine is a constant struggle for me – but the rewards on all fronts are worth the effort.
So in my case, we have a sort of minor tragedy turned into a sort of minor victory. Thanks to two wines. Sort of.
(images: sacbee.com, 1WineDude)
This exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo (the monkey) and me (not a monkey but likely descended form them) traveling to the exotic Middle East, specifically crossing the oft-disputed borders into Israel to sample kosher wines as part of the Wine Blogging Wednesday blog carnival.
This month’s WBW is being hosted by The Cork Dork, and is focused squarely on kosher wines as the Passover event comes to a close.
I decided to explore a couple of extremes with this review, so we’ll be looking at two very different wines that have a few common threads uniting them – they’re both kosher, they’re both results of the relatively recent explosion in quality fine wine from the region, they’re both Petite Syrah based wines from Israel, and they’re both pretty damn good.
According to Hugh Johnson, most countries that produce wine have some form of kosher wine on the market, and they’re usually a long way removed from the sacramental wines and kiddush that once made kosher synonymous with “crap” when it came to wine (instead of it’s actual meaning, which is “pure”). Kosher winemaking basically follows the same process as un-kosher winemaking, with the exception that the winery workers must be religious Jews and there should be nothing un-kosher added during the winemaking process.
Twenty years ago, Tom Stevenson reported in the New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia that “fine wine is nonexistent in the Levant.” Now, in the book’s 4th Edition, he highlights that due to a “boom in boutique wineries” over the past decade (it should also be noted that an influx of California wine technology didn’t hurt, either), we now find “growth, diversification, and exhilarating promise in the wines form Lebanon and Israel.”
Between those two countries, Israel has far less land under vine than Lebanon, but exports much more of its increasingly yummy final product into the international kosher wine market. According to the World Atlas of Wine, a fine wine culture has taken hold in Israel, and appears to be built to last.
What’s truly amazing is how short our collective historical memories are when it comes to Israeli wine in general. For centuries Israel lay on the wine route that ran from Egypt to Mesopotamia, and wine use in Jewish culture dates back literally before their recorded cultural history. The word wine crops up over 200 times in the Bible. Viewed that way, Israel’s fall from wine grace was a temporary blip on the historical radar. Given Israel’s mild climate, varied soil types and state-of-the-art irrigation, it’s a wonder their wine quality revolution didn’t happen more quickly (for more on Israel’s winemaking history, check out Andre Domine’s Wine).
The proof, though, is in the puddin’ – or in this case, it’s in the Petite Sirah.
After unfortunately missing an NYC expo of Israeli wine earlier in the year, I was fortunate enough to receive samples of Israeli wine from a few different sources. Hence the opportunity to feature two of them here, both from the same grape but miles apart in terms of style.
First up is a wine from Recanati’s Reserve label, a (mostly) Petite Sirah (with a little Zinfandel mixed in) from Galilee. New World style all the way, with dark blackberry jam, spices & pepper notes. Absolutely screams fro something grilled (and I’m not talkin’ veggies). If you’d told me it was from CA, I’d probably have believed you – which is not to say it’s a copy-cat wine, but that it’s achieved very good quality and excellent concentration of fruit.
Next up, I tried another kosher offering from Carmel, which was founded over 125 years ago by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of Château Lafite and a Zionist. Carmel is now one of the largest wine producers in Eastern Mediterranean. Their 2004 Carmel Vintage is a port-style dessert wine made form Petite Sirah and clocks in at a hefty 18% abv. On the nose, it’s got elements of dried blueberry and blackberry syrup, with smoke (compliments of many months aging in French oak) following up the rear flank. The palate is all dried prune and sweet maple syrup. I was really digging this – in fact, you would dig almost anything after 3 glasses of this (part from the hangover you’d endure later). You could let your imagination run a bit wild with potential dessert pairing for this one, but you’d do just fine sipping it on its own after a hearty meal.
I suppose the moral of this story is that kosher wines are no longer crap, in fact they’re pretty f—king good. They had me at Shalom, anyway.
(images: jewcy.com, palmbay.com, natashascafe.com, 1winedude )