There are worse places to be than where I’m camped out this week – Portugal (again, and I feel blessed to be back), where this time I’ll get to spend some time in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Lisbon, as well as getting back to the insanely gorgeous Douro and the lovely city of Porto.
The reason I’m back in this diverse winemaking region is that I’m being hired by a (rather large) Portuguese wine producer – well, technically I’m being hired by their PR agency – to pen posts for their U.S. blog. That blog (of course) will have no affiliation with 1WineDude.com apart from the guy writing the articles (me) and is going to be hosted separately. I actually don’t even have a log-in for the site yet, but the Portuguese approach things in a manner that is… well… let’s just a bit more laid back than what we Type-A, anal-retentive, uptight East Coasters are used to seeing.
Since I’ve been totally transparent since day one on this blog, and within the Going Pro series of articles in particular, I wanted to give you all the skinny on this gig of mine.
Let’s start by telling you that for the duration of my contract with said producer, there are two aspects of the contract that I hold as supremely important in governing how this deal is gonna go down:
- I’m not allowed to enter into any similar contracts with any other Portuguese wine producers (makes sense, but let’s just say there isn’t exactly a long line of Portuguese-speaking PR types knocking down my door), and
- The producer has agreed not to be mentioned in any context whatsoever (name, reference to wines, etc.) on 1WineDude.com (or my facebook and twitter accounts) for the duration of the contract.
That last condition was mine, and it serves as the “firewall” between what I’ll be doing specifically for their blog and the independent coverage of wine that I provide here…
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It’s been months since the most recent “official” book review on the virtual pages of 1WineDude.com. This hasn’t been due to a paucity of book samples coming my way – I’ve just sadly had little time to devote to them, because my time management skills are on par with Chad Ochocinco’s ability to stay out of the public eye.
Fortunately for me – and, I think, for many of you – William Widmaier’s A Feast At The Beach hit my mailbox. It clocks in at less than 150 pages, with most chapters – vignettes of Widmaier’s late `60s childhood in Provence, centered around wine, food, and the family kitchen – short enough to be enjoyed while taking care of quick business (on the toilet… c’mon, you know you were thinking it). The book is interspersed with recipes that look simple and delicious (but I wouldn’t recommend combining them with the toilet-reading).
Anyway, delving into A Feast At The Beach has the feel of exploring the back-catalog of posts from a supremely well-written blog. The first few sentences of just about every chapter draw you in, connect you with Widmaier’s Provencal childhood memories, but in their disarming terseness remain blessedly free of any hint of cloying, saccharine wistfulness. Exhibit A – his take on pesto (when comparing it to the French pistou):
“I am addicted to fresh homemade pesto. Forget the manufactured, preserved concoctions in jars. They compare to fresh homemade pesto like motor oil compares to Normandy butter.”
You’ve just gotta love that. And as a wine lover, you’ve got to admire Widmaier’s take on the wines of Provence, which are prevalent throughout the book and often show that he knows of what he vinously speaks: “A huge part of the joy of wine, at least in my view, is having a sense of place that goes with the wine. Wine is more than the taste on the palate; it is place, memories, history and art. This is why with wine, taste is such a personal thing – it includes one’s romantic notions.” Bingo, dude.
Personally, I’m pleased to have stumbled upon a memoir that is well-written enough to be romantically reflective without losing its edginess. Which makes A Feast At The Beach such a rare book – it’s one that can be equally at home on your grandmother’s beach house coffee table as well as your own nightstand. $14.95-ish (cheaper at Amazon.com).
- 08 90+ Cellars Lot 15 Pinot Noir (Carneros): Bright cherry fruit survives the oak attack w/out getting overblown about the achievement $16 B #
- 07 90+ Cellars Lot 4 Shiraz/Viognier (McLaren Vale): Starts near the evil dark-cherry-soda border, finishes w/ spicy, leathery balance $15 B #
- 06 La Jota Heritage Release Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Cassis, spice, blackberry – just focused, pure, & brilliant. $90 A #
- 08 Hanna Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): Hazelnut, honeydew & apricot meld with tight, lemony acidity. And (wow!) it totally works. $22 B #
- 08 Sanford La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills): Get past the sizable heft & spicy raspberry/cherry & earthiness awaits $50 B+ #
- 09 Dry Creek Vineyard Wilson Ranch Dry Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg): As tropical, refreshing & overachieving you’ll get for the price. $12 B #
- 08 Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): French oak dukes it out with bright red fruit & spice. Oak wins by TKO. $40 B #
- 09 Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Want some red fruit & flower action with all that smokey oak? $20 B- #
- 08 J Keverson Haas Family Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Mountain): Brutally big (as in "some of my fruit got brutally murdered!"). $32 C+ #
- 08 Santa Ana Reserve Malbec-Shiraz (Mendoza): Pepper & Plum have a happy marriage, then give birth to velvety, easy-going offspring. $13 B- #
- 08 Hugel "Cuvee Les Amours" Pinot Blanc (Alsace): Living up to its namesake with flowers when you meet & a citrusy kiss when you part. $15 B #
Seventh Lombardi trophy, that is.
See, I’ve been a Steelers fan for over 30 years, which places the activity in rare company when it comes to my lifetime activities, bested only by things such as breathing, sleeping and enjoying birthday cake. And for those of you sick of hearing about my NFL alliances (basically everyone but me), I offer this tidbit only as backdrop to a duo of 2007 California wine recommendations, so don’t get your jock straps into too much of a bunch just yet.
When the Steelers won their sixth championship title I was writing a piece about a Napa Valley wine while watching the game bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT in England. This year, I’ll be in Portugal (more on that next week) watching the Superbowl bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT. So I figured I’d better write about some Napa Valley wine again, because we all know what happened the last time all of those totally unrelated elements came together, right?
Not that I’m superstitious. But I might be planning on wearing the same pair of underwear I had on during Superbowl XLIII. And I’m not gonna say if that pair of undies been washed since SB XLIII. Let’s just not go there, okay?
Fortuna smiled and samples of two Napa wines well-worth your time have recently made their way to my sample stash (“recently” for me, that is, not “recently” in normal people time – which means these wines have done a bit of cellar-aging by virtue of my total failure at personal time management).
And the odd thing is, they were wines I had fully expected to hate…
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