Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Drinking Deeply From A Cooler Cup

I remember years ago while being tasted on some Alsatian wines a little, new-to-the-business sales rep asked me, “Which wines are your favorite?” a question that any wine lover and buyer will tell you, is impossible to answer. Favorite? There are far too many options to pick just one, not to mention the whole, “favorite for what?” thing. I remember glancing at a map of France we have hanging on the tasting room wall and answering, “I think I am a fan of that Northern part” and went back to taking notes. I thought about that conversation a few years ago while actually tasting in the Rhone…turns out I am in fact a fan of the North.

We had spent most of our time in the South tasting lots of young Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cotes du Rhone and Gigondas but it was during a  9:00am appointment with Thierry Allemand in Cornas that I found my happy place. We had just left  the A. Clape winery and while I loved those wines I found them a bit too tightly wound. Might have been that I was tasting them at 8:30 in the morning on a freezing cold January day but still they were hard, confusing and somewhat challenging. Maybe it was the walk to Allemand’s winery, the sun was coming out, we had the first palate crushing wines under our belts, that Thierry Allemand saved us by shooing off a mouthy and aggressive teenager that was barking at our little band of American wine professionals. Could have been any of those things but standing there in his big handsome shadow, safely behind the gate of his tiny winemaking facility, the frost beginning to melt off my nose just in time to be warmly buried into a glass of cool climate Syrah so jarringly beautiful I felt my back go firm and lungs expand to twice their size. This, this was a Rhone that I could find myself splashing about in. Found my Rhone that day and from that day forward, when looking to get my Rhone on as it were, I look North. 

Guess it’s not surprising if you consider the wines that move me, Champagne, Burgundy, Loire, all from cooler growing regions and aren't really about primary fruit. They are lean, pretty tangy and often exhibit some savory notes, just what I tend to favor and how my palate works…I’m a cheese plate over dessert person. While I still adore the wines of the Southern Rhone, (although they are starting to get too jammy and rich which pisses me off) there is just something about those Syrahs from the North that drive me wild. The herby, meaty, smoky thing, the wild flowers and dark berry thing, when I have all that in my glass it makes me think that if purple had a smell….this would be it.

Been spending some time in my Rhone department the past two weeks, both preparing for inventory and getting ready for a class devoted to those violet saturated, peppery and elegant Syrahs of the North, been captivated once again with wines that are as aromatically stimulating as great Burgundy but come with the added sex appeal of thicker bodies, wild and gamey, savory aromas and just enough weight to leave a deeper bruise. 

Syrah suffers a bit, I think, from a little identity crisis. A victim of poorly thought out globalization and the misguided expectation that it might just be the "Next Big Thing" dumped on an unsuspecting and uninformed public that pretty much universally told us to go fuck ourselves. Weird, sweet, syrupy or oddly smoky wines with pushed extraction and not enough acidity to keep them in balance. Far too many of those and the wine drinking world turned a very cold shoulder on what can be, and is in fact, a very noble variety. 

Been having a blast revisiting these wines and I fucking cannot wait to pop some corks and expose a few others to what cool climate, Northern Rhone Syrah can do....

Couple of wines that have been digging into my side, flipping my bit tingling switches and leaving their mark. 


2012 Laurent Combier Crozes Hermitage ($18.99) I spent 10 minutes smelling this wine before I even noticed that I’d yet to taste it. It is that beguiling aromatically. Deep, dark, brooding but with this sexy bare-shoulder or suggestion of feminine and grace underneath. Purple flowers, cracked black pepper, cured meat and crushed blackberries. You want to know, smell and taste what drives Syrah lovers wild? Here you go

2012 Cave de Chante-Perdrix Vin de Pays de Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah, ($14.99) I am so diggin the wines from this area, such wicked values considering their close proximity to Saint-Joseph, not as weighty or serious but displaying many of the same flavors, just on a simpler, smaller scale. Sweet ripe fruit, massive amount of pepper and tons of violets all with a gentle mouth feel and a clean bright finish….rockin’ bottle of wine for this price.

2010 Francois Tardy Crozes-Hermitage, ($17.99) You know that raised eyebrow thing you get when something unfamiliar perplexes and intrigues you? Like you don't know what is happening but you know you are all in? Yeah, this wine gives me that. Lots of gamey notes here with a blast of fresh fruit that is, very quickly, followed by this sexy green peppercorn thing that keeps you going with the, "What huh?!" face. Wild but worth the ride.

2011 Domaine Faury L'ArtZele Syrah, ($29.99) Pretty. So freaking pretty. This is a wine that bares its purity from the first sniff and keeps your attention as it reveals itself all night long. Full of vibrancy and life the fruit here is bursting and naked in a way that captivates and demands. 

2010 Louis Barruol La Viaillere Cotie Rotie, ($66.99) Deep. Soulful. Smokey. Charred. Explosive. Heart-pounding. Powerful. Regal. Demanding. Convincing. It's rare that a wine leaves me speechless, this one does.  

Ready to splash about more in this cool cup of staining liquid.... 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Love Me, Love Me Not

“Jesus! You two are fucking insane!” my eyes spread wide, lashes fluttering against the lenses of my glasses and my head spun around with the hope of catching a glimpse of young tanned bodies bubbling up to the surface as I distractedly swerved my car into the lane beside me. Two young girls, maybe 15 or 16 years old had stood on the far-too-tiny railing of a bridge that hung over the flowing canal of water below. I’d seen people fishing off the bridge. Seen others standing there communing with the running water that skipped rowing teams and people in kayaks across the surface of the water and slung them down another canal that would pour out into one of the bodies of water that dominate our landscape in Long Beach. I’d seen others in and around the bridge and water but I’d never seen anyone take that terrifying leap. I was shaken out from beneath the blanket of discomfort that I’d been shuffling under all damn day. My heart was racing and not in that sexy or fun way. I was terrified. Scared for those girls, fearful of what might have happened, afraid of the nibbling little flicker in my gut that reminded me that I used to do that same kind of defying thing…something about that last bit and having it be in the past tense, seriously gripped me with distress.

“Mom! Mom, watch me!” I was standing on the roof of a great aunts home, stepping over splintering bits of caved in and rotted wood, working my way to the edge my feet already halfway hanging off, the groan of decaying plywood in my ears as I hollered a little louder hoping to pull my mother’s attention from what was probably the first grownup conversation she’d had in months and the freedom she must have felt not having me beneath her feet, on her mind, to no avail. Little body shivering from hours in the pool and the exhilaration of teetering there on the edge of a roof, the circular landing pad, a twelve foot pond waiting to break my fall. I bent over with my tiny arms folded across my quivering tummy, took in deep breaths that filled my nose with the smell of chlorine and tanning lotion, “You can do this” my chant as I once again gained my erectness, tugged at the bottom of my bathing suit, unsticking it from my flesh and freeing it from my quickly tightening bum. Back straight and tall, hair slicked back and a blonde so white from the sun it was nearly platinum. Thumb and pointer finger placed on either side of my nose, three brief exhales before taking that life-saving deep breath that would stay in my inflated lungs long enough to hold my thrill induced beating heart in my chest, and make me buoyant enough to break through that surface again, this way on my way back up. 

Can’t tell you how many summers I spent jumping off that decrepit and rot infested roof into the pool. Never occurred to me not to do it, that it wasn’t safe or I might get hurt. Fuck, I was hurt several times and barely stood still long enough to get patched up before pressing the oak ladder back up against the thick ivy and dodging the rotten spots….feeling my feet flail and heart race as I made that free fall back into the water. Truth told, beyond a few cuts and bruises, splinters and scratches, nothing horrible befell me and yet the very idea of doing that now, well it scares the living shit out of me. Even when I can still close my eyes, recall those smells and the crackling of the unfortunate roof, can right this second hold my palm across my chest and feel the thumping of my heart as it remembers that moment my feet left the edge and I let my body fall. Not sure if it was my stupidity or courage…not sure it matters now, I just know that watching those “stupid” girls stand on the ledge and let their stupid courage push them into the canal, I knew what I felt wasn’t fear…it was envy. When did I let fear stop me from being stupid enough to be courageous? Too long ago….

I let my car roll into a stopping position at the red light, my mind a million years and heart-thumping pool jumps away. My jaw tight with irritation as I fondled the remote for my radio, huffed and puffed that there was, “Nothing good to listen to” as I cranked the ac up and shifted my chunky, sweaty ass around in my seat. A snit, I was in a good one. Long line of cars, didn’t make that light either and “Fuck me!” there was that homeless woman that always sits there on the median, making me more uncomfortable by asking for money with her crinkled old sign with sprawled writings about God’s blessing and whatnot.

I’d seen her before, lots of times and for the most part I did what most do, I rolled up my window and fidgeted with shit in my car as to not make eye contact. I don’t have problems with homeless folks and I am a big supporter of many charities. I give when and as much as I can but there is just something about handing over crumpled bits of cash to someone…it’s shameful or something. Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s not their shame, it’s mine. I feel embarrassed handing them money, that and I do have a very, very long history with what the drug or alcohol addicted do to feed their habit and I have never wanted to be a part of that. 

I’d given this regular-on-my-route woman cigarettes before. She never asked for them but when I would roll down my window and hand them over she always took them. The last time I was “stuck” at the light and beside her, after I’d quit smoking I did dig through my backpack, cursing my husband that I never have cash, (um in his defense, I never use it) and scrounged up two bucks to hand over before making my left and sailing down the street home. Her hard face always softened when my window opened, a firm but far from prideful smile as she thanked me and nodded before stepping away from my car but I was always…relived when the light worked my way and I could just coast on by. This day she and I made eye contact but I was in no mood, had no smokes or cash and I was fucking uncomfortable already. I felt myself go stiff as she walked up to, and then past my car. She had no expectations of me, hopes maybe but no expectations as she settled back down on the plastic crate that she sits on, holding her sign, asking for help. Found myself irritated with how gracious she was…how fearless she had to be.

Felt like three hours before I was able to turn my car around. In fact it was less than five minutes before I was sailing back down the street, past her but going in a direction that felt a bit like toes hanging over the side. I pulled my car into the Trader Joe’s parking lot once again with the huffing and puffing as all the granola eaters and gherkins (sorry old people, Leisure World Senior Living Facility is right up the road) sauntered through the parking lot, left their carts in open spaces and took, “For-ev-er!” to back out of one of the far too few spots. This is where I share that I am not only not the shopper in the family, I loathe Trader Joe’s. I walk the aisles there and cannot find one fucking thing I want to take home…the few times I have bothered I’ve been horribly disappointed. I was there because it was close but now I was like a retarded kid wandering the rows, throwing random crap like fruit leather in my basket. 

Filled my basket with things I normally avoid like the plague. Boxes of shelf stable food, some fresh fruit, juices, veggies, bread and a couple beers but it was bags of nuts, dried meat, and canned foods that packed my basket so full that the little plastic handles dug deep into my flesh as my still irritated ass stood on a huge line. Not sure why I was there or what I was intending to do but those two insane girls and their racing hearts inspired this and from the nervous pounding in my chest I can assure you, I was feeling less than fearless but…maybe a bit more courage.

Cringed at the total of my bill and snorted a bit when I heard my own voice ask for a “few extra cloth bags” to purchase. Made a zombie like walk to my car, spread the bizarre array of goods on the trunk of my car and I could feel my chest heaving and caving as I searched within, trying to figure out what my next move was. Giant ass exhale when I realized, I didn’t have one. Loaded up the reusable bags with Trader Joe’s crap, pulled open the driver’s side door  and lunged into the belly of my now feeling way more comfortable car, wriggled my sizable ass around the steering column, pudgy hands digging for one of the bottles of Rose I’d brought home to enjoy. Shoved the cold bottle in one of the bags, had just enough shit still going on upstairs to walk to the Ruby’s on the corner and ask for a couple paper cups before hoisting the bags over my shoulder and walking my sweaty ass like a half mile, (probably even less but it felt like 3 miles to this chunkster so back off) back to the median I had passed forty minutes earlier….comfortably on my way home. 

Must have looked like a sun dried tomato as I pressed the walkie button thing at the light. Sweating, face a mashed bunch of “what the fuck?” bags bumping against my ass with each shift of my hips. I let two lights pass before I shuffled my feet to the curb, dangled my toes off the edge and stepped into the street, made my approach. Now this woman and I had seen each other no fewer than thirty times. Made contact, even briefly heard each other’s voices when I shoved something out my window at her and she, as prideful as she could be, thanking me. We’d been face to face, in a way but never this close. Never this face to actual face. I dropped the bags on the narrow median and with a very dramatic deep breath, stuck my hand out, managed one of my crooked smiles and said, “Hi” praying to whomever that I didn’t sound too cheerleadery or like one of those missionary fuckers.

I watched her eyes. Dark sun dried skin tight and rough as she looked from me to a bike that was pressed up against a light post across the road. She didn’t speak. Didn’t take my hand but had no problem looking me right in the eye, a stare so fierce I felt wobbly and stupid…which inspired me to take one more step forward. I bent down, reached into one on the bags, pulled the cold bottle out, still standing there with this homeless woman, on the median where she held a sign asking for whatever we had to give. Wrapped my hand around the neck of the bottle, twisted the sleeve and heard the snap of the seal break, “I’ve not much to give and I wouldn’t blame you, for a second, if you told me to go fuck myself but….I have these bags and this bottle and they are yours if you would be willing to tell me a story. Could be yours, could be someone else’s, don’t care. Up to you” 

Daisy. Her name is Daisy. I felt the singe of my own cruelty as something in my head said, “Not as fresh as a” when she told me her name. Her scent that of the unwashed. Dusty, oily, musty like muddy jeans. Her story not unlike so many or what you might suspect. Detached parents, looking for love in the fumbling hands of a man, gave birth to too many kids all of which now live with her hard, cold, firm but sober parents in Arizona. I was captivated as she spoke. Her mouth sweetly powerful and free as if no one had asked her about…her, in so long that she didn’t know where to stop. “He was number five and he was the one that gave me this” her ragged voice briefly soothed by cold Moulin de Gassac Rose as she pointed to a bubbled over scar that ran from her left ear to her collarbone. She confessed that the bike she was so protective over was not hers; she’d stolen it, but only after hers was taken from her. I felt the green and fresh flavors of the wine splash against my palate, the tingle of acid ripple down my throat as I took cavernous gulps of my life while listening to the story of hers. The two of us letting the bits of fear fall away as we shared a bottle of Rose from the Languedoc and ate a bag of cashews.

“Well Daisy, I’d better get home” I said as I dusted off my own muddy jeans. Her face became stern again. I knew she wasn’t ready for me to leave, for whatever reason, but I could feel the difference between courage and stupidity just then, it was time for me to go home. I extended my hand once again and once again she ignored the gesture. We gave each other a nod and I made the trek back to my waiting car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. I looked back only once and I was thrilled to see, “That chick is insane” on her face.

Less fearful

More courage

A shared bottle of crisp Rose

I wish that for us all…

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Many Heartbeats In A Day Away From You?

The silence of my home this afternoon left me alone with my thoughts, the quiet sounds of the world outside doing little to pull me out of my head, little to stop the flashing scenes…my memories of you unfolding before me, each turn of the page making me squirm and wiggle. My mind stained with the very real, intense remembrance of my all too brief time with you, my heart pounding when I close my eyes and let myself remember your scent, a smell unlike any other I had known before or will ever be forgotten…and a smell that has replaced my idea of what eroticism means….Just a couple more days to wait, for You.

It's difficult for me when I begin to think of you, us, that night, the night I had you to myself for the first time….the way I had let myself think about it, but was sure it would never be, just thinking about that night and I find myself consumed, lost in a hedonistic swirl of wet flesh, twisted want, a desire so fucking consuming that it literally rattles my bones ……Only a couple more days until, You.

I attempted to busy myself with the chores of real life, wiping the counters, cleaning the floors, but for all of my feverish scrubbing of dusty corners and titillating memories, I just find myself once again, short of breath with droplets of anticipation rolling down my back, slipping across my tummy, saturating my shirt. I let my teeth sink hard into my bottom lip and long for a way to rid myself of this nearly suffocating and extraordinarily potent dominance you have, long for a cloth powerful enough to wash myself clean of you. My body grows tired, as if the mere aching, remembering and longing is draining every ounce of resistance, resilience and strength…..and the resounding and intoxicating feeling, I miss You

No matter how far away you are, how many hours, days, weeks months and years pass without us touching, for me….you are the single sexiest, devastatingly seductive  memory, aroma, flavor that I have ever just a couple more days I will bury my nose, rub my palms, fill my mouth and heart with You.

No wonder I can't sleep......
It's You
Keeping me weak and ready
For more.  

Supple apricots
Flinty wet stones
Lemon curd....
Uncontrollable desire 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Finding My Proper Pairing

“What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second hand emotion? What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

The raspy voice gurgled from the speakers, the warmed-by-the-sun driver’s side seat of my car curling perfectly around my sides causing me let out an audible groan as my spine melted into the seatback and my fingers flicked the turn signal. I pulled into the left hand lane….the beginning of my weekend starting just on the other side. Between glances at oncoming traffic and shifting of my tired rump around in my seat, looking for that perfect spot where the ass to seat cushion fuse together in a pillow like plushy-ness, I reached for the remote control to my satellite radio. Eyes still on the road my hands fumbled through the contents of my center console, “Gate clicker. Parking pass. Tissue….ewe!” before my fingertips fell upon the sleek little dial changer remote thingy. Edging out into the intersection I could see Tina’s fierce gams in black high heels, black leather skirt, faded denim jacket and wild mane of spiky, straightened hair as her lips curled into…..
“What’s love got to do, got to do with it?’ my instinct was to change the channel, never liked the song and goddamn MTV, (aka the church of the 13 year old in 1984) played the video to freaking death, not to mention my mother would sing, (never a good thing, got my horrible signing voice from her) it at the top of her lungs, complete with awkward dance moves, whenever it came on. Inching deeper into the intersection but still going nowhere my head was swirling with hugging seat backs, the still warmth from a car sitting all day in the sun, spiky hair, raspy voices, awkward dance moves and…sandwiches of boiled ham, plastic wrapped cheese food and cans of black cherry soda. What the fuck?! Somewhere in the two minutes from leaving The Wine Country’s parking lot and waiting to make a left on Sterns Street I was transported back to the corner house on Orange Ave in Bixby Knolls, 1984.
We had just moved out of the house where my mother, sister and I would cower in fear in the rooms just off the kitchen. The big beautiful house full of big dreams, (my mother’s mostly) sad souls and reigned upon by a miserable man that found great pleasure in tormenting a ten year old girl. Knowing she would be too afraid of breaking her mother’s heart to tell her about the nights where I would cry silently, hanging over the bathroom sink as I tried to wash the Taco Bell bean and cheese burrito, the one he smashed in my face and laughed as he told his cronies, “Watch this, a pig will eat anything” out of my hair before she got home. Too afraid to answer her, “What’s wrong baby?” questions…until the day I saw him, tight lipped and grabbing my baby sister by the arm, digging his dwarf like tiny fingers into her pudgy flesh, eyes narrow as he hissed at her through clinched teeth, her big blue, nearly two year old eyes shocked but already defiant as she tried to pull herself away. She and her bright light, intoxicating laugh and sweet heart were next on his list. Swallowed my fear, of all the repercussions and spilled on his emotional terrorism. Within weeks we were moving our few belongings into that corner house on Orange Ave.
The light turned yellow, I made my left and dropped the remote back into the console. I listened to Tina snarl and croon, her words acting like snapshots landing in my lap, the stark white interior of a new space, a television in the front room that I was allowed to watch, my mother’s bumbling hip thrusts and off pitch belting out of a song that spoke to her. The turning of the key in a deadbolt and walking into a kitchen after school, kicking off my shoes and dropping my shit wherever I wished, flipping on the television and dancing about  as I made a sandwich of boiled and pressed ham, slimy sheets of cheese, “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?” blaring above my, “C’mon MTV, isn’t there another video you can play?” mayonnaise and tangy yellow mustard, washing it down with a black cherry cola and for the first time in years, eating without the wrench of fear banging around in the pit of my stomach. To this day one of the sweetest pairings I have ever tasted; boiled ham and plastic wrapped cheese sandwich, black cherry cola and, freedom.

 The song ended and I discovered, much like oysters, Beaujolais, lamb chops, spicy mustard, Chardonnay, Loire Cabernet Franc and stepping out from behind my armor, it simply needed to be heard…and felt, at the right time for me to fall madly in love with it. Tina’s words hovering, “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”……my answer, “Has everything to do with it” at least for me and my pursuit of happiness, of pleasure.
Been steering clear of many wine blogs lately. Not sure if it’s just me but I'm beginning to feel as if I come from a different strain than many of my wine blogging brethren. I skim but get hung up on rants about who’s got it wrong, who’s being a douche, who’s qualified to make proclamations about wine and I am about 3 years over that bullshit. Over it and none of that cantankerous quibbling speaks to the side of wine that drives me wild, the parts that inspire the kind of lust and want that drives me come here and smear my desire all over you. Not sure if any of you have noticed but there had been a long ass lag in sensual posts from me and I think much of that came from spending far too much time trying to “get” or understand what everyone else is talking about. Be a part of a more "serious" conversation that has ended up leaving me voiceless and without an inkling or slightest bit of itch, to come here and share my particular....peculiar brand of wine speak.
 Feels like I had been pulling the covers over my shoulder and tossing out the old, “Um, not tonight” far more than I ever dreamed I would. I miss feeling slippery, feeling my skin pull tight and the words drip from my fingertips.  It was becoming very clear that the, “What’s love got to do with it?” crowd so huffed up on their own hot air that their emissions had been fucking with my desire, to not only write but to join in what was once an active and interactive community. Now that right there, that is some serious bullshit. Bullshit and it’s about to stop. Not getting into anymore one sided conversations with people that think they have the right to tell me how I should be doing wine, that their way is the only “factual” proper and honest way. Not going to put my bits to sleep reading the pseudo-spiritual yammerings and winery or PR firm fed fluff pieces. Too old in this business to get myself tangled in that. Plus, it doesn't move me. Have at it dude, you enjoy your factoids and leave me to savor, flick, touch, ooze and fondle. I shan't cross your path and it is now time for me to scoot those fuckers off of mine. 

My little nibbles of want are beginning to tingle again....
I am in love with wine and
Love has everything to do with it. 
Least for me.