I am going to make a brief detour from the world of wine and into the world of coffee. I trust my noble readers will forgive the foray.
While visiting the Monteverde cloud forest, Regidia and I were lucky enough to stay at a B&B where the owner, Jen, originally hailing from NYC but also a 10 year resident of Santa Cruz (NorCal love), sent us off on two truly excellent tours in the short time we had in the area. The first was a wildlife tour, which was excellent, and the second was a coffee plantation tour. Regidia and I almost skipped this — I think we were expecting something more akin to the Dole Pineapple tour — but I am so glad we decided to go.
After bouncing down the mountain on rutted roads in a minivan, our welcome committee was adorable:
Our guide gave us an overview about coffee, specifically growing it in Costa Rica, and also about how he saw the fair trade market, which was very interesting — and dispiriting. The rest is from notes I took from him speaking on my iPhone, and yes, I know I’m a dork, but hey, three months later, I have notes.
Here are some beans, the ones that have already leafed can’t be used, but the ones that haven’t could be if they are transplanted.
Here are some transplanted coffee plants aging gracefully towards productivity:
Olman hand-roasted some beans in a little shed. A tropical storm passed overhead and we saw the troop of monkeys playing nearby.
And we got to see the cool machine used to roast coffee on the farm in action (looked much like a small jet engine):
Coffee tasting tips from Olman:
Olman’s thoughts on fair trade coffee and the economics of growing coffee in Costa Rica:
And then the farmer and his adorable little daughter made us coffee and we bought a ridiculous amount of it directly from him to take home to friends and family.
Regidia noticed immediately at the airport that the coffee prices were the same as what the farmer charged us — which means the middlemen have taken their cut out of the farmer, not the tourist. ”Oh, poor farmers,” she said.
Leaving the cloud forest for the beach and towards the horrible decision to buy Tres Corones:
Ariane and I recently had our every-other-week wine night at the wine bar “The Hidden Vine,” which is in the FiDi of San Francisco. It had closed for refurbishment or a move or something, but recently reopened (like mid-October) so we ventured forth to check it out.
The space was gorgeous, a lot of wood and cozy seats grouped in intimate corners. Everyone seemed to be on a first date of varying degrees of awkwardness except for me and Ariane, which tends to happen to us a lot on our wine nights.
We were immediately taken by the Hidden Vine’s “versus” list, which pairs two wines in head to head combat on the battlefield of your taste buds. As Ariane said, “I like the conflict!”
I ordered the Pinotage battle, which was a Gainey Pinot Noir versus a Turley Cinsault. Ariane ordered the baby gladiators to be brought forth: Baby Brunello versus Baby Barbaresco.
Shortly after ordering, the sickeningly lovey dovey couple (mazel tov, guys) who had nabbed the awesome seat in front of the fake fire left, so we snagged the best seat in the house and awaited the first battle vino.
In the war of the babies, the brunello was leggy, dry, not fruity, and smelled strongly of gardenias (at least to me). It tasted sweet to Ariane, but I wasn’t picking up a lot of sugar. The Barbaresco was leggy and dry, it smelled and tasted extremely alcoholic to me, and you could taste the grape.
In the epic Pinotage conflict, the Turley Cinsault was not fruity and was very young. The Gainey Pinot Noir was our favorite out of all four wines, although I usually prefer my pinots to be more fruity.
The Hidden Vine was a great spot to visit, had some tasty food — we had a cheese plate, some flat breads, etc — and the waiter/keeper of wine was one of the more charming people I’ve had the fortune to interact with lately. I would definitely recommend it. I hear it’s busy around happy hour, but we were there at 8pm on a Wednesday and it was a mellow crowd and easy seats were to be had. Apparently there may even be a bocce ball court? The last time I played bocce ball it was in a carefully manicured backyard where the owner kept entreating us not to ruin the border plantings, so this would be an infinitely better setting.
Justin had informed me that he was bringing a roast duck as his food offering for our football gathering. The symbolism of this food offering didn’t dawn on me for some time because I love duck and I was just excited he was bringing it — while find it an exceedingly random choice on his part.
Then he said “you are what you eat,” and I realized we were, of course, playing the Oregon Ducks, and this was his way of symbolically devouring the flesh of his enemy prior to battle.
Justin also made tacos in which to wrap the duck. It was brilliant.
Like me, Gretchen had been thrilled to hear that we’d be devouring duck this evening, so she went against the grain and brought a bottle of red wine to the gathering — Francis Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” “Ivory Label” 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was, predictably, quite tasty.
Quotes of the moment:
"Can you pass me that bottle of wine? I want to read it," — Tasha
Discussing the ESPN Magazine’s Boston cover:
"It’s called hubris" —Tasha
"I hubris’d your mom" — Jessica, proud Bostonite
There were a couple reds enjoyed after this, but I was encouraged to stop typing so much and talk to my friends, so sadly the tasting results were lost to posterity.
Also, USC won. And it was glorious.
We left California wine country and headed up to Oregon for a bottle of 2009 Arthur by Domaine Drouhin, made in the Wilamette Valley (Dundee Hills).
Mel had favored us with this bottle of wine (and some delicious homemade cupcakes) to celebrate the fact we were playing Oregon, and because she wanted to class up our palates with a very famous wine.
Mel: “This wine has been enjoyed by presidents. It’s been in the white house for many years”
Catherine (comparing it to the Chardonnays that had come before): “It’s lighter but fuller and has a lot of flavor.”
Rushabh enters the fray!: “It’s acidic and when it goes inside it’s dry like a Riesling.”
And then it was half-time so we took a group picture of all the USC grads in the house. The dogs, while not actual grads, refused to be left out:
Thiel Chardonnay 2009 North Coast California
Gretchen and I re-energized a long standing squabble about our high school biology teacher, Mr. Thiel, with this chardonnay. He was one of my favorite teachers, but Gretchen had a rougher time in his class.
Notes on the bottle from the crowd:
“These are just the whites, we have to get to the reds” – Jessica
“Oh my god, we do don’t we. Holy shit.” — Gretchen
“Crisp” -– Catherine
One more bottle of white until we can take a break for half-time before moving on to reds!
Gretchen brought a bottle of Wente’s Riva Ranch Chardonnay, which she and I have been happily guzzling since we turned 21. She felt it was time we featured it on wine-ers, and as usual, was correct.
Wente is a Livermore winery, a home-town hero of sorts, little guy made big.
Wente Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay 2010
Jessica: “I’m not a white’s fan. I’m not an acidic type. There’s a little acidity, but it’s not bad.”
Catherine: “It’s creamy”
Gretchen: “As I always do, it’s amazing. Not as crappy as 2007. “ This is an insider’s reference to 2007, which was a ghost town for decent California chardonnays and a sad sad year for me and the G.
Catherine: “It’s buttery.”
Gretchen: “It is buttery, which I tend to stray towards.”
Catherine: “It’s not oaky.”
Gretchen: “It’s a little oaky.”
Justin: “This wine tastes a lot better with a USC touchdown.”
Justin: “It’s actually a pretty good chardonnay!!”
Favorite Wine-er Catherine (who recently provided valuable inspiration in my increasing the regular posting of this blog by dryly observing that I only posted when she was in town, which happens approximately twice a year) was back! And fortuitously enough, she was back in town for a fun filled weekend the very same time that the Oregon Ducks took on our alma mater, USC. A football party was required. As was a great deal of wine.
Cheers to football, ladies!
And a picture of your humble scribe and furry friends.
Details on the bubbly:
I grabbed it at the local market because it was only $8.99, *and* it was pink, *and* it was sparkly. A girl can only take so much before the credit card gets whipped out.
The deets: yellow tail bubbles: Sparkling Rose Wine. It had a fascinating plastic contraption instead of the more traditional cork, which allowed you to reseal the bottle and preserve the sparkles (unless you wanted to use the very brilliant raisin method Marisa recently clued me in on — perhaps both methods in tandem would make the bubbly more sparkling than you originally began with).
The wine was light, bubbly, and pink. I suggested it cried out for a sliced strawberry to brighten it up. The following conversation ensued:
Gretchen: “I would pair it with a pineapple to be honest. Give it a tropical taste. A strawberry would be good, but if you added a citrusy taste to it it would give it a punch. Thoughts?”
Catherine: “A low acidity pineapple. A white pineapple. That would be good.”
Gretchen: “Oh yes. This is more sweet, more of a tropical flavor.”
Catherine: “Indeed. It’s bubbly, but it’s not excessively bubbly.”
Gretchen: “I know I’m drinking champagne, but it’s not too… too.”
In summary: Light, fruity, very sweet – you can taste the sugar – a lot of fruit, no finish. A big bang of flavor and then done. The boys, of course, hated it. Fortunately we had a cornucopia of reds and a heavy beer that was called “Bitch Creek” to cheer them up.
I stop at Merryvale almost every time in Napa, and while the wine there is excellent, the reason for my constancy is purely convenience: Merryvale is across the street from Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Refresher), which is an expensive but very delicious burger stand.
So, our pre-lunch stop was Merryvale!
The tasting room at Merryvale is lovely with lots of tempting shopping to do. There is also a huge room, filled with barrels and a banquet sized table, that is available for special events. Like my next birthday? Hope hope?
Justin invested in a $90 cab franc. This is the face of man who loves his cab franc. Note the smug superiority around the lips.
It was totally a good deal though, because buying the cab franc got him comp’ed his $15 tasting fee so it was **only** $75. Sort of.
Merryvale had just run out of some of their more popular reds and were left with some that the employees there admitted were too young and not so tasty. They had some solid chardonnays and the cab franc was a big hit.
We followed up this classiness with big old hamburgers and milkshakes. We couldn’t figure out why we ordered milkshakes when it was freezing outside. But they were delicious to sip as we huddled under a heat lamp. Which is what is happening here:
It was time for a field trip and to introduce many of our wine-ers to the various delights of Napa. Napa is absolutely the Disneyland of wine country — beautiful, over-priced, over-crowded — but if you haven’t been there before, it’s worth a visit, but more low-key and just as delicious wine expeditions can be had in neighboring Sonoma and Livermore.
Our first stop was Domaine Chandon, which has beautiful grounds, and specializes in sparkling wine (California’s version of champagne) but also usually has really excellent wine wine as well.
Being more than a bit jaded by Napa’s prices, I googled around and found some “buy 1 get 1” wine tasting coupons, so we ended up getting one of each wine tasting flight (of which there are 4) and sharing them all (sharing is caring) so everyone got to try everything on offer.
This made for a happy group of wine-ers:
A little bubbly in the morning makes wine-ers bubbly too? :)
It’s pretty much agreed that the main point of Thanksgiving is to watch non-stop football for four days while eating leftovers in the form of turkey sandwiches, turkey stew, and turkey platters. Today was no different.
We had a late lunch to devour more leftovers before returning to the city and getting back to the daily grind of honest (white collar) labor. Said delicious leftovers were paired with a family staple, Fetzer’s Gewurz —
— here you can see my sister’s boyfriend, Greg, with my parents. My sister was in her pjs and did not want to be so immortalized except for while devouring a turkey leg —
— anyways, back to the wine we had with dinner, which was the Fetzer 2009 Gewurztraminer.
Thoughts on the Gewurz (which we drink all the time, and is one of my Dad’s favorite wines):
Tamsen: “I think of it as being between a sauvignon blanc and a Chardonnay —”
Mom and Greg (in unison): “But sweet.”
Mom: “I think this particular wine is sweet, pleasant, and goes very well with turkey. Also, it’s cheap as the dickens. What, like $5, $6 at Costco?”
Every time my mom has asked me to open a bottle of wine lately, I have been faced with this complex contraption. It’s sort of magical, with a caveat: you screw it in, and then keep going, and then it pulls the cork out with some strange antilever system. It completely pierces the cork, though, so you can’t use it again.