Tastes of Things Before My Eyes: The Beauty of Wine, Under A Microscope

Vinted on March 25, 2010 binned in book reviews

Just when you thought that wine has been analyzed form pretty much every angle possible, along comes Philadelphia native, biochemist PhD and former medical research scientist Sondra Barrett.

Sondra’s journey to wine seems spiraling and circuitous: Originally a researcher on human leukemias, she was asked to photograph a patient’s leukemia cells, which lead to her presenting slide shows of normal and abnormal cell comparisons at oncology clinics.  After attending a photographic exhibit of chemicals of the brain, Sondra saw parallels in her leukemia work and, noticing an artistic quality in the brain chemical photos, decided to try similar photographic techniques on molecular structures in nature.

Structures like wine.

Sondra is now the author of a recently released collection of those photographs, titled Wine’s Hidden Beauty.

And the images in this book (Sondra sent me a review copy) are, simply put, extraordinary.

According to Sondra:

“My first discovery was at Sterling Vineyards when I was artist-in-residence documenting winemaking from the inside out. The winemakers gave me barrel samples and wines from all over Napa Valley. This extraordinary experience led me to uncovering distinct patterns and beauty in a glass of wine. Early on, a Napa grape grower, Rachel Balyeat, provided some financial support for me to delve further into the life of wine. She hosted a special dinner with acclaimed wine maestro André Tchelistcheff to discuss what these pictures could mean. Andréʼs first reaction – ‘They are the jewels in wine. Put them on silk scarves.’”

I think Andre was on to something (though I don’t wear silk scarves so I’ll stick to admiring the photos in printed form)…

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #67: Seeing Red For The First Time

Vinted on March 24, 2010 binned in wine blogging wednesday, wine review

Today marks the 67th (!) edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, and I’m honored to be hosting the event again. 

For those playing along at home, the gist of WBW is that it brings together multiple people across the wine blog-o-world to review wines on the same date based on a unifying theme.  For #67, we chose “Seeing Red For The First Time” as the clarion call of united wine geekiness (a.k.a., “the theme”).  Here’s how this shin-dig goes down:

To participate, you’ll need to pick a red wine that you would use to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines for the first time.  Think of a person that only ever drinks white wine, and answer the question: What Red Wine would I use to convince that white-wine-only person that they should also drink reds?

Include a review of the wine, and be sure to tell us why you chose that style of wine, or that wine in particular (or both).

A potentially challenging but fun theme, I hope – and I can’t wait to see what you’ve all come up with to try to tempt white-only drinkers over to the Darker Side, so to speak.

My choice, of course, was picked out quite some time ago since I had some advanced notice of the theme, but I had a trickier time than I’d expected in fulfilling my WBW duties.  In fact, while I wouldn’t call my attempt a total failure, I’m pretty sure it ain’t a total success, either

But before we get into the wine itself (which was not a media sample this time), let me unravel for you the tapestry of my logic on this puppy…

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Lucky Number 14 (Tasting 13 Appellations’ FOURTEEN)

Vinted on March 22, 2010 binned in California wine, wine review

At the 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium (yeah, I know… that topic again?!??), the Napa Valley Vintners (a non-profit trade organization that promotes its members wines and the region as a wine powerhouse generally) hooked us (the attendees) up with wines produced by their various association members.  A couple of random bottles of what-have-you in the SWAG bag, basically (I think mine contained a Cakebread Cab and Lieff Cab as well).

At one of the “Postprandial Hospitality” (read: “after-party”) tastings, a few attendees noticed a slew of goodie bags stacked in the corner of the room.  They were, apparently, extras, and we were encouraged to grab wines out of them as samples if we liked.

I used it as an opportunity to rummage for labels that I hadn’t had opportunity to taste yet – which is becoming more difficult for me when it comes to California wine – and managed to find a few intriguing bottles.  One of which was a wine named FOURTEEN from 13 Appellations.

Clever, I thought, probably mixes juice from all of the Napa AVAs.  Then it was back to the madness of the Symposium and Premier Napa Valley.  FOURTEEN was relegated to a bag, then a box, then to the OAK airport luggage system and the belly of at least two different Southwest airplanes before being shelved unscathed into my basement.

Of course, I’m late to the party (as usual) and it turns out that 13 Appellations has been doing this since 2002, dedicating the wine to the late husband of one of their partners, Kristi Seitz of Brookdale Vineyards.  Leave it to me to casually bump into a budding Napa Valley institution, as it were.

Whatever, I was just lookin’ for some tasty juice, alright?!??

Anyway… After retrieving the bottle of FOURTEEN several days later from its temporary cellar banishment, I became much more intrigued about the concept of this wine.  After all, this is something that could bring together some of the best aspects of Napa’s diverse soil and temperature profiles; or it could be something that tries so hard to be everything that it ends up being a nothing; instead of transmitting a sense of all Napa places, it might convey a sense of being from nowhere in particular.

So, which is it?  How is this wine?…

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