Saturday, April 30, 2011

Birthdays Come True

For Kate Middleton, dreams come true, princes marry commoners like Cinderella. Love stories still swoon the world. Fairytales do come true. Now, with spring in the air, azaleas raging bloom, will my Birthday wish come true? I didn't think turning 30 would bother me so much. It did on the eve of my last night in my 20s. With my baby girl tucked away in bed with visions of sugar plum fairies hopefully dancing in her head, I sat at my desk in all my state of fatigue and mustered up the will to dream.

The days get shorter with punctuated moments of relief, the chores pile high, the demands seep in where your cozy thoughts cower, hiding from the cacaphony ever threatening to conquer your reason. To erase, for a moment, the outside world and just think, what do I want? What would fulfill me from within, burst forth, and shout to the world: Here I am! Quickly, I just think, I want to read a book on historic romances, like Diana and her young Henry in the castle of Chenonceau. Or flip through moving poetry, pour over Eustache Deschamps and Geoffrey Chaucer, ponder the satire of Le Miroir de Mariage or the beginnings of iambic pentameter.

Noooo, instead I must study in every spare moment. I dream to be enraptured by wine at a level where expertise commands respect. I want to be a Master of something, namely wine. So, I march on to the tune of my birthday song. What a party it was, friends of yesterday come aglow, martinis clinking to the chatter of wine free-flow. The 1977 Magnum of Dow's Port, perfectly paired with chocolate and blue cheese smatterings. Even the Inflourescence Champagne was unforgettable, next to my birthday dinner at Palena where a 2005 Guigal Brune et Blonde came to visit after Kim Crawford's 2006 Central Otago Pinot Noir.

The cupcake confections linger wantonly everyday another bite of cookies n' cream pure delight. The 2004 Chateau Montrose roused the band, with cheerings of full-bodied cocoa, coffee, chimney-sweep scents packed in lovely textured tannin sippings. Mmmmm, my birthday was one for the decade to be sure. Now, to move on and focus, the goal is not yet within reach, but as Confuscius said it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.

How to make my birthday wish come true?....dare to dream, and dream BIG. Master of Wine will I greet you the next decade birthday bash? I venture to take heart, birthday wishes do come true. And I am determined, settling in to my long lost imagination.

2004 Clos du Marquis Saint-Julien
Herbaceous, cocoa, bitter upfront, needed to open more. Delivered rustic mouthfeel. 2nd wine of Leoville Las Cases. Supple though, through and through, backed with power, bit of cassis, not singing to me really, a bit too bitter.

2006 Chateau Talbot Saint-Julien
So accessible even though quite young. Velvety smooth, bodacious red fruits, chimney place in my living room, cold ash murmurings, refreshing--mouth-watering, balanced acidity, black fruits rampant, chocolate dustings. Mouth-smacking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

5x7 Folded Card

Love My Grandma Mother's Day 5x7 folded card
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Garden Preoccupation

The time of year is here, the roomie and I anxiously anticipate harvesting the fruits of her labor from her plotted terrace in the backyard. All winter long we've thoughtfully added to the compost pile with our recyclable wastes. Creating, we hope, a garden to be envied. Never do you taste vegetables and fruits so fresh, then when plucked ripe from your own tilled earth. Squash, carrots, melons, peas, greens of chard, lettuce, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, assorted herbs....mmmm. My mind is turning with images of recipes churning from our homey kitchen. The only trick is to keep the roving hound, Stella, out of the heaping mounds of glorious dirt--great for digging I presume, and wolfing down scrumptious, succulent veggies.

Last night, poignant memories of garden goodness instilled indelible tastes in my mouth while I salivated over an aged Rioja. Paired with a simple whole wheat rotini pasta tossed with zuchhini, tomatoes, red peppers, and pecorino cheese, my 2003 Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva, imported by Frederick Wildman, wrapped flavors of garden fresh aromatics around my olfactory senses. As the words flow, images of fresh turned soil penetrate savory reminisce of dill, tomato leaf, and sun-tanned fruits. So good on which to finish a Thursday night after Ab Ripper X and a long, hard week of Tony Horton, my goal of P90X.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nose your Spring Fragrance

When speaking of aromas, wine blesses us with a myriad of fragrant bouquets. How to interpret these smells and identify them with savvy wine speak remains the elusive gift wine-o’s spend a lifetime attempting to master. So, what is in a nose of wine, and what does that really mean? Why do wine critics write florid descriptions in wine reviews that read to the tune of: soft, velvety, rich in chocolate, blackberry and smoky oak flavor? How does wine, an alcoholic beverage, exhibit flavors of fruit, spice, wood, herbs, and flowers?

First, let’s start with the primary organ of taste, your tongue. The human tongue detects five primary tastes—acidity, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, and umami, or savoryness. When molecules from food or wine touch the palette, they bind to receptors specific to each taste. Acids set off sour receptors, sugars trigger sweet receptors, etc. With the survival of the fittest in mind, humans have evolved to like sweet tastes, since sugars/starches provide primary sources of calories. On the other hand, poisons taste bitter, so humans harbor distaste towards bitter flavors. Perceptions can be altered, though, and tastes can be acquired; the very phenomenon that takes place when an adolescent sips coffee or wine for the first time. Over time, as a youth matures and repeatedly exposes him- or herself to certain flavors, acquired tastes are born.

The tongue supplies only part of the story, the nose completes the picture with the sense of smell. Taste buds determine the degree to which something is salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or umami; but, the nose qualitatively assesses thousands of smells that the brain computes into words. Molecules giving rise to flavors and aromas are volatile, meaning they pass easily into the gas state. When you sniff or sip a wine, the volatile flavor molecules waft through your nasal passages to the olfactory bulb where they are interpreted. A wine becomes one dimensional if your sense of smell is incapacitated, like when you have a stuffy nose.

Putting the technical talk aside, this process fails to explain why aromas of chocolate, cherries and blueberries spill forth from a glass of Malbec. Little attention do we pay to the thousands of aromas we “visually” memorize. A vanilla bean smells like vanilla because an ester molecule called “vanillin” gives the bean its characteristic smell. When considering wines, the aromas depicted originate from the grape varietal itself, yeast fermentation and the chemical reactions incurred while wine ages in a bottle. The resulting aromas are the same compounds found throughout nature, just in smaller quantities, and out of context. Pass a blueberry plate under your nose before sniffing Malbec, your chances of identifying hues of blueberries will increase. But swirl a little Malbec without the presence of a blueberry plate and see if you pull out blueberry. It’s there, just out of our vernacular reach.

Aroma molecules in wine span the families of fruit, spices, herbs, flowers, minerals, earth, and more. Consider Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. This white wine commonly exhibits ester molecules that dominate the following organic forms of life: bell pepper, tomato leaf, asparagus, grapefruit, gooseberry and passion fruit. How to train your brain to identify aromas present in your glass remains the ultimate talent. Practice proves best. I recommend lots of wine tasting. Common aroma groups repeatedly occur in every grape species. For instance, Merlot gives plum, Cabernet Sauvignon boasts currants, Pinotage reveals tar, and Pinot Noir renders mushrooms and cherries. This month at Red, White and Bleu Wine Shop in Falls Church, I host the first aroma class of a series: Le Nez du Vin. Thursday evening April 21st feel free to attend the Spring Series. We will pair every one off and blind fold you for a short time to taste you on foods you can’t visualize: a brain boot camp of sorts! Spring aromas and flavors will be a focus. Fruits, greens, and herbs sourced from the local Farmer's Markets will be sniffed in their natural states, followed by a wine tasting of wines which exhibit the selected scents. Aroma education proves humbling, but great fun is definite! Phone the shop for more information 703.533.9463 or email me at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Savor with Savigny-les-Beaune

Pic from
Mouth-watering cheese and wine pair: Abbaye de Belloc partnered with a savoury Savigny-les-Beaune, Burgundy Pinot Noir. Tucked away in the Cote de Beaune region of France, nestled up against a hillside southwest of the famed vineyards of Aloxe-Corton, sits a region known as Savigny-les-Beaune. Great value pinot noirs leave this commune boasting silky, supple tannins and soft berry fruit. The mixture of flavors perfectly swell your mouth with luscious hints of violets, black cherry, blackcurrant, spice, leather, and crinkly autumn leaves--the crinkle texture sprouts from the high acid levels in the pinots.

Benedictine monks from the Notre-Dame de Belloc artfully craft the Abbaye de Belloc, a French Pyrenee's sheep's milk cheese sporting rich texture and high fat. Truly Basque in nature, the cheese calls for an elegant Bordeaux or a dense Madiran, but I had Pinot fixation in mind this night (and Pinot tasting notes to write). So, I grabbed three different Savigny-les-Beaune Pinots from vintage 2008. The acidity levels and soft fruits took on the rich, semi-hard cheese, melting it in your mouth. Highly recommend a fresh baguette! Enjoy.