Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Tasteful Walk Through Time

Last night was maintenance night. This is the night once a month that I try and cram all my girlie shit into an hour or two. File down my freaking talons…my fingernails are like cement weeds, they are thick as hell and grow super long, fast. My sister got the killer laugh and amazing hair…I got the fingernails and ample rack, sigh…so not fair. I toss a coat of quick drying polish on them, piss and moan that my keyboard, “feels funny now” and then move on to the most hated maintenance day event…dying my hair.

I think coloring your hair is much like addiction, had you known going in that first time that it would be something that you have to feed even though you now hate it, well you never would have tried it in the first place. I thought it might be kinda hot to be that blonde that is just this side of platinum, no warm honey blonde for me. Nope had to go uber blonde and now I’m stuck with a goddamn root monkey on my back…dammit. Now when you are like a trained sniffer, one of those people that has a highly sensitive sense of smell, well maintenance day is a full on assault. I sit here in my living room, my now stiff and unpleasantly aromatic hair piled atop my head and glare at the microwave clock…”Fuck, it’s only been seven minutes?!” it’s wretched and the best part? This lovely chemical stank is shampoo resistant, get to relive the nose assault for a couple days…awesome.

Stinky nail junk, stinky hair junk, the smell of lotion, (which I needed after my get-this-crap-off-my-head shower) and I just knew it was not a wine night. Poured myself a tall glass of tonic with a splash of gin…trying to take it easier, and hunkered down in front of my laptop. I checked my regular blogs, made some adjustments to The Wine Country’s online store and settled on stalking Facebook. I was less than pleasant, offensively aromatic and wishing I had put more gin in my drink. Comment, scroll down, comment and that was when I saw it. A buddy, (I separate my Facebook people into two groups, friends & buddies, the later being people I actually know and talk to on a regular basis on Facebook or otherwise) had posted a picture of the meal he was eating, Boudin Noir.

Just looking at that glistening, darkly colored tube of pork bits, fat and blood, (shudder) and spices and I was transported to a tiny café in Paris. It was seven years ago and my first night of my first trip to France. I was with relative strangers, sleep deprived, had been crying in my room before dinner; feeling out of place, being away from my family, terrified of what the next twenty-five days was to hold. I was melancholy as we rushed through the Metro doors, Michael Sullivan barking at me to keep up, my fellow travelers appearing so much more…prepared, together, grown up. Part of me was aching to get left behind, preferring to sit alone in my hotel room than be the-one-that-didn’t-belong that was likely going to make an ass out of herself at a dinner table in Paris. I found a sliver of peace when we were seated in the low lit back corner of the bistro. Still feeling more alone and afraid than I had ever felt before but comforted by the soft lighting, the warm orange glow of lights reflecting off the restaurants copper light fixtures, the lulling hum of people enjoying a meal and each other.

Such a wildly different dining experience that first night in that tiny bistro, a world away from any life I had even thought of before. There was a palpable intensity to the diners a civility, a romantic rhythm to their conversation and appreciation of a meal prepared for them and shared between them…this is what stole my heart and attention.

My head was spun, my heart captivated, I was longing to melt into those dusky walls…be a part of every meal shared in that space…warm orange glow, gentle hum, the smell of freshly prepared food, herbs, freshly cut flowers, wine kissed mustard, decades of cigarette smoke, wine and Pastis dripping from the walls and straight into my veins. How could I have existed before I knew of this place?

“Sam try this” the sound of my own name pulling me back to the table, our table the reality staring me in the face and holding out a forkful of black sausage. I took the fork from Michael’s hand unsure if I was to deposit the oddly colored hot dog on my plate or be so bold as to put my mouth on his fork….I made the deposit. I so wanted to be cool, act as if I were not at all perplexed by the weird color and mealy texture of thing that I was being asked to ingest. Not wanting to be one of “those people” I speared the piece of offered food with my fork and brought it to my lips, the smell of iron and spices wafted through my nose and tried to prepare my palate for what I was about to taste…it failed, there was no way in hell I was prepared for the gawd awful flavor and texture of Boudin Noir.

Not sure if it was my eyes watering or the over exaggerated puffing out of my cheeks, (you know when you are trying to hold your breath and chew without having the flavor of whatever it is you are trying to force down actually touch your tongue) that started Michael’s laughter. “So what do you think?” he asked through his trying-not-to-laugh laughing. Now there were two ways to go here, I could have kept trying to be cool….pretend that it was fine or worse that I liked it but my fear of being handed another slice had me going with option number two. I swallowed the chewed-enough-not-to-choke, food and answered, “Yeah, that was pretty fucking gross…might just be the single nastiest thing I have ever put in my mouth” I said while reaching for my glass and taking a long mouth cleansing glug of Chablis. That was the beginning, me sitting across from a Michael I had just made laugh, a scene I would see hundreds of times again. Boudin Noir, a taste of things to come.

Always amazes me how the mind works, how we remember not only taste and texture but how those things can be and should be connected to something bigger, more important…a shared evening, a laugh, a night of self indulgence. Food and wine, the taste memory of both acting as snapshots, moments in time captured on the tip of your tongue. These are the things that matter, the things that can never be reduced down to a shelf talker or numerical score. What number should I give my Boudin Noir? On taste alone it would score very low but that moment, the friendship that began that night…immeasurable.

Jean Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc, the lip of the glass being titled against my collarbone…cold Champagne running down my bare skin….a mouth waiting to capture the, “Sam seasoned” drops.

Agrapart Rose, six of my favorite people…big loud room, roasted duck, Amy excitedly picking away at beef noodles, shrimp dumplings and pork, “donuts”…Merritt’s birthday and Amy’s first dim sum.

Alliet Chinon, pan seared steak, salty batch of white beans with sage….a rare night alone and a meal prepared just for me.

Gosset Brut Rose, seafood tower…lemons and creamy dill flecked mayonnaise…three women…an order of fries…lots of giggles and a second bottle.

Tempier Bandol Rose, Randy and Dale’s backyard… aioli and grilled lamb....the whole Wine Country team….my son tasting with us….his proclamation that this “Is my favorite”.

I’m not trying to rage against the machine here, I’ve long since given up on fighting the point system of wine evaluation. It’s here to stay and I get that there are some folks that find it useful, my only hope is that people see it for what it is. I mean unless you are tasting that bottle in a lineup of others like it, sipping, spitting and jotting notes before moving on, then your experience is likely to be very different and it should be. Your meal, the rhythm of your own conversation, your moment, your “picture” of an evening or an afternoon spent with a bottle of wine, these things are worth far more than any score…..


Annie Browne said...

Amen, sister!!! While wine and winemaking and all that is a total science, the experience that the wine helps to create should be the complete opposite - organic, emotional, sensory, and all that other good stuff!
Here's my favorite: celebrating our "week 1" anniversary of dating, my now-husband and I sipping a bottle of Dom, watching the sunset, being all giddy like schoolkids, and knowing that we could finally stop searching.
(sorry, did you just throw up a little...i did, but it's still my fav)

Samantha Dugan said...


Hey sister, if you didn't barf at my, "Sam seasoned" comment how could I barf at your romantic one?! I think it is sweet as hell and am hoping that many more, (well at least 16 more) people chime in with theirs.

Annie Browne said...

Haha! I did NOT barf at the Sam fact, I'm practicing my form right now, I'll be serving up some Annie sippings later this evening. Thanks for the tip! Problem is, I'm not very coordinated so I'm hoping nobody gets hurt.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Wine and memory are powerfully linked. At least, I think I remember that's true. I have many wines that trigger very powerful emotions, not always good ones. After having my apartment burglarized twice in two weeks, my girlfriend and I drank a bottle of Grgich Hills Zinfandel. I can't even stand to look at the stuff any more.

However, I am planning on an amazing memory that will be generated by whatever bottle of wine you and I first share. That first clink of the glasses, the first sniff, the laughter, the relief of finally meeting, the stories, the shyness, the blushing and cataloging of each other... Though, trust me, HoseMaster seasoned isn't the best thing to ever happen to a wine.

The wine we share won't have to be that special. The beautiful moment we meet will make it so.

PS--How come I'm so sweet over here and such a jerk over at my blog?

I love You!

Your HoseMaster

John M. Kelly said...

Annie - a total science? Honestly - probably not even for some freshly-minted university grad. Walk with me in the vineyard while I'm trying to decide if it is time to pick - more berries in my mouth than in my sample bag - the analysis I might do out of force of habit, only to reinforce what my eyes, nose and palate have already told me. Climb inside my head when I first run the clusters through the stemmer/crusher and that smell hits me - some part of my brain I use for nothing else lights up and I just know I need to add a dash of this and a pinch of that (or not) to get the most out of the fruit. Pull on some boots and climb in the fermenter with me just for the joy of that glorious living smell of grapes being transformed by yeast. Taste out of barrels with me: "malo's not done," "needs a racking," "hmmm, that is an a-maz-ing oak in this one barrel!" or "OK this year the blend gets this much Syrah." Years ago I stopped running most routine analysis on my wines - I no longer want to know any numbers for their own sake, only if the number is necessary to help me make a correct decision (or if it is required by the TTB - like final alcohol percentage). Winemaking is a craft; science may be a good place to start, but art is where the artisan ends up.

Sam - I have had good and bad Boudin Noir. I can't say the bad was the grossest thing I have ever eaten - that would have to be a 1,000-year egg. Lately I have enjoyed Spanish morcilla - especially with a nice Grenache/Garnacha. But you stabbed my heart with the pic of the Raveneau Chablis. Would it surprise you to know that the ONLY still dry white in my cellar is Dauvissat "La Forêt"? And my most memorable meals? I don't know where to start.

Sitting in the rustic home of Robert Lautel in the countryside southeast of Beaune, as his wife brings out a tureen of daube of Charolais beef with at least three inches of melted butter on top. We're drinking I-don't-know-what, this and that Robert brings out of his cellar, each bottle perfect with this incredible plate of meltingly unctious stew and fresh bread. By dessert our hosts start to throw some dialect into the conversation, gently teasing the American who has let the wine convince him he knows more French than he really does.

Sitting with my wife in a little room of our own at the French Laundry, watching the sun set behind the hills west of Domaine Chandon's vineyards. It is our first visit, and our 11th anniversary, and we are dressed to the nines, and have made the trip in a borrowed Porsche convertible. The food has been a revelation, and the wines delightful: Billecart-Salmon Rosé, Anne-Claude Leflaive's Chevalier-Montrachet, a Pommard Rugiens form J-M Boillot. The meal would last almost 5 hours.

Well, that's what just popped into my head - a start anyway.

Thomas said...

Yeah, John, and sticking my head into a vat of fermenting Gewurztraminer--quite a memorable science moment.

Most memorable meal was a trout dinner alongside a Finger Lakes Riesling at a lakeside joint that happened to be in the perfect spot along Keuka Lake on a clear, June evening as the sun set.

Next day, we visited a real estate agent.

John M. Kelly said...

Yeah, Thomas - I once stuck my head in the top of a fermenting tank of Chenin Blanc. More of a memorable medical moment than science moment. Thankfully for me (though perhaps not for the industry) a friend was holding my belt and pulled me out, so it didn't turn into a coroner's moment.

Benito said...

I feel ya on the hair color issue. My beard and mustache aren't quite as vibrantly red as they once were, and it takes a careful application of "Just For Men - Irish Edition" to keep the gray away. ;)

Those pinks sound delicious, and I'm going to be looking for some around here as it warms up...

Samantha Dugan said...


It's messy but oh so memorable. Get your sip on sister.

Ron My Love,

Yeah, yeah...big talker. I'll believe it when I see it. Just hope I can live you to TMFWWW and Sir Charles Puff Daddy Olken. Gotta tell ya Ron, won't matter what I drink when I meet will in fact be a moment, one that I will never forget.

John My Dear,

Chablis dude, there is just nothing else on the planet like it. As sultry as white wine gets...outside of Rougeard Blanc. Loved your snapshots and adore your sweet stories about your wife. You have your, "Rawr" moments too but when you talk about your family...melty.


Your story pretty much trumps all of mine, that's life changing and with a bottle of Riesling...very cool.


Darlin' we should so have a slumber-dye-our-hair party when I am out there in July! I defy you to keep a straight face as I am dying your facial hair with my pile of stanky hair resting upon my head...I'll bring the bubbles and my jammies. It's on the table kid it's your call.

Charlie Olken said...

I have long wanted to be a blond. I guess chicks are more likely to get that privilege.

Perhaps, to make up for it, I loved my first encounter with blood sausage. It too came in Paris as part of a the best Choucroute Garni ever, also probably because it was my first. You never forget your first.

Not sure how the place of point ratings in this world fits in here, but I guess I will leave it alone.

No, can't. Simply put, the process of deciding what to buy is totally different from drinking and enjoying the wine. If the wine consuming public had to read hundreds of five hundred word essays in order to choose among the many offerings out there, they would stop drinking wine.

Samantha Dugan said...


Be thankful you resisted, whole lotta maintenance. Even for a natural blonde, (albeit darker than this) like me...not sure it's worth it.

Yeah, I'm not sure the points thing fits here either. My head has been all over the place, think it really shows in this post. That being said I had a few people in last week that told me they refuse to drink any wine rated below 90 points, guess it got under my skin.

Do Bianchi said...

Really love this post but the words I'm taking away and am making one of my personal aphorism are "Chablis dude, there is just nothing else on the planet like it."

Thomas said...


If I was pressed, I might admit that the Finger Lakes Riesling was the life-changing event as opposed to the atmosphere.

Until that moment, I hadn't known much about the region's wines, and I was looking for vineyard land that I could afford. It was a happy coincidence--well, not really a coincidence. I had tasted a Finger Lakes wine in NY City and that gave me the idea to visit the region.

It is amazing what an open mind can lead you to, and then a little help from a sunset clinches the deal.

Charlie Olken said...

Hi Sam--

On the subject of hair color, I just let it do its thing. I must say that, one way or the other, I do enjoy having hair--not that bald guys need to wallow in despair. And thank goodness that chicks do not lose their hair. Much better to be a bottle blond than to be bald.

As for points, there will always be people who do not get the concept. But, before 100-points, there were 20 Points, five stars, ten chopsticks, words (wines rated Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average and Swill). It is the nature of any product that varies in perceived quality/pleasure production in its consumption, whether wine or movies or cars or, or or, that someone will examine the product and offer an opinion. Even wine merchants do that.

Besides, I am a bit sensitive on the subject since I have somehow managed to make a living having opinions about CA wine, as you so generously allowed me to point out in our interview.

So, Sam. Here is a question for you. If I am ever lucky enough to have you appear at my house for dinner, what CA wine would you want me to serve?

Annie Browne said...

Hi...okay, not science, mostly, but definitely a concoction of a lot of stuff! Concoctions can sort of be called scientific, sometimes, can't they? I'll work on my descriptors...
As for dying hair, the smell sucks and so does the process. What we go through to try and get babed up! I can't wait for the post on waxing and plucking...hehehe.
Cheers all! Happy Sunday!

Veronique - The American formerly known as Ceci said...

Nicely said!! Just had "memory creating wine time" with 4 friends and an '05 Spanish bottle of wine called "Prima" (Bodegas Maurodos). We were laughing from the first sip to the last one. I felt like it was a death match of 5 comedians. Never laughed so hard, for so long while really enjoying such a rockin' wine. (probably also helped we had consumed a few bottles before that, but hey it was "memory making time" =P)

Samantha Dugan said...

Mr. Do Bianchi Sir...or should I be so bold has to call you Jeremy?

Thank you for the kind words and for taking time to read and comment, means a lot. And on Chablis...dude, seriously one of the most facinating and seductive ever. That combination of cold stones, raw dough and salty, freshly sweating skin...damn.

Being open minded is the first step to every great adventure. A very romantic story and I thank you for sharing it here.

I do undertstand points and I also understand your inclination to defend them, I dig that about you Sir Charles...steadfast, honest and fair, pretty much my trifecta when it comes to cats I wanna hang with.

Should I ever be so honored to dine with you I would never presume to pick which California wines to drink. You are the expert and I would and will default to you each and every time...but I do digs me some Pinot Noir, just sayin'. What would you have me bring?!

The one upside to being a not-this-blonde blonde, virtually hairless. I have to fill in my eyebrows, (that's right dudes, they're not real) and I only have to shave once a month...if that. So sorry, no plucking or shaving posts, well unless my nose hairs count.

Thomas said...

I shave once a month, too. I also transport myself by swinging from one tree to the next...

Kimberly said...

First I gotta say, one of the best reasons for coming to your highly entertaining (AND informative!) blog, is the highly entertaining commenters -- I believe your commenters are the best in the wine blogosphere.

Second, the "root monkey" is indeed a killer, and I'm in the throes of having to deal with it myself this week. Or, I could just start wearing my Yankees ball cap everywhere I go.

And third, even though it's not even Spring yet, those Rosés you mention make me want to run down the street to my fave wine shop right now and stock up on a few. It's practically all I drank last summer and fall. Oh, how I long for warmer weather!

Samantha Dugan said...

I so adore those nights....


Dude the people that post here are the best. So funny, smart, supportive....I am indeed lucky to have them, very lucky. Sorry you have to feed the root monkey, best to just do it and deal with the next fix when the time comes.

Charlie Olken said...


If I ran a wine shop, I would not let anyone else's wine comments in the door. The place would run like yours. Individual bottles each hand (nose?) selected.

It is not the retail trade that does not "get" points, but consumers who think that a number somehow conflates with across-the-board appropriateness. You get "points" regardless of whether you use them or not. It is the type of consumer who set you off who does not get the limits, uses, purposes of points and thus misuses them.

Those folks also give me "tsouris" because they make a mockery of what is just a shorthand symbolic expression, and thus bring about endless to-ing and fro-ing about the subject when the real issue is the character of the wine as expressed in the words that accompany the number.

Samantha Dugan said...

Well Charlie My Love,

Your last bit there should tell you why Ron & I get our crunders and panties in a bunch over someone like that, "Tree Guy". No words, to tasting thought or skill. Afix a number and viola. Grrrr. Oh and Ron wears the panties around these parts, I'm a crunder gal.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

OK, sure, I wear the panties, but I work it so that I can see out the legholes.

There is absolutely nothing in the world like Chablis, and, man, if I had all the money in the world I'd fill my cellar with Raveneau. His wines sing with pitch-perfect harmony.

Charlie's never had to work retail or as a sommelier and deal with the foolishness that is wine scores. He dishes 'em out, Samantha and I and many others deal with the consequences. When a customer would purchase a wine off my wine list that I was convinced he wouldn't like (because I knew the customer, or he'd explained his tastes in wine) because it had received a "96," I'd tell him, "Fine, if you order the wine I recommend and you don't like it you won't have to pay for it. If you order that wine and you don't like it, you can ask Parker for a refund." But, as far as I'm concerned, the entire debate is, well, pointless. Points have won. One has to be gracious in defeat.

And, yes, Kimberly, Samantha does have the greatest lineup of commenters because she is the most interesting and brillant wine blogger around. And, also, I comment here.

I Love You, Samantha!

Your HoseMaster

Sara Louise said...

Ugh! Girly time! I used to love it when I had a bathroom that I liked. And you're so right about the hair, once you start, you can't stop. I wish someone had told me that when I was 14.

Me, I can't do blood sausages either. Yuck yuck yuck. But I know what your talking about when you say that you don't want to be 'one of those people' and made yourself eat it, that's how I ended up eating that beef tongue. Chewing very quickly and then large glug of wine

Michael Hughes said...

Wow! I'm transported! I can't taste that filthy sausage right now. Great post, Sam.

I'm so in on that bubbles slumber party. I can't wait for July! Prepare to sweat your ass off in the godawful swamp of Memphis summers.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Sweet,

Um, so all those panties you had me send you were for head gear?! And I just thought I was being supportive of your kinky little needs...feeling rather foolish now.

I have stoped trying to fight the points machine, I said uncle years ago but once in awhile these drinking for status rather than pleasure people...well they creep under my skin.

Color junkies man...what we do for our habit.

I cannot wait to share a glass of wine with you...dripping with sweat or otherwise.

Nancy Deprez said...

I can't eat blood sausage either. And I can eat a lot of things. But not that....

Great post, as always.