I must apologize for my utter lack of posting this past month and a half. What I haven’t mentioned before now is that I am expecting a baby! He has been consuming my thoughts, and is now due in less than a week. I fully plan to resume posting in a couple of months.In the meantime, I’ll leave my thoughts on the parallels of natural wine-making and natural childbirth.

Both are making a resurgence after decades of medical/agricultural interventions. I once read a blog post by a fellow local blogger about his efforts to make wine. After admitting that he added acid to his very alcoholic wine, he said, “What? You mean I add things to my wine? You bet. And anyone who doesn’t is either very, very lucky, or very, very stupid.” 

As I attempt to go through childbirth naturally, please wish me luck, because I know I’m not stupid!

An interesting article in the New York Times outlines the difficulty Prosecco producers in the Veneto  are having in their attempts to protect the name Prosecco as unique to that part of Italy. Because it is the name of both the grape and the wine, it’s more difficult to prevent the appearance of the word on a label of an Argentinean version, than it is to make the same argument for Champagne, which is the name of the region.  If Prosecco was referred to as Conegliano or Valdobbiadene it’d be a more equivalent situation. Not that Champagne producers are  having an easy time protecting their name either — the Office of Champagne USA have spent  quite a bit of money this season placing their ad unmasking “American Champagne” in the New York TImes online and on Times Square this holiday season.

This controversy was pretty much dead in the water as soon as it hit the internet, but what I find interesting about President Bush serving a $500 bottle of wine to his G20 guests, 1978-front-replaceis not how expensive the wine is, but how much better he could have done than the Schaefer 2003 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. I understand that they have to stick to American wines at the White House (although that wasn’t the rule until the Johnson administration), which drastically limits the opportunities for truly good wine. But if I were the cellar master I think I might choose a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1970s, like the Chateau Montelena from 1978, being sold for a mere $150. 

I’m curious about the White House cellar in general. I found this article which interviews the White House “usher,” a man in charge of the wine cellar named Daniel Shanks, who was hired by the Clintons and has worked there ever since. His view seems to be that state dinners are too short and chaotic to serve an understated aged wine, and instead he prefers something with “youth and vigor” to pack a punch and make an impression. It sounds like the Clintons made a bad choice!

Interestingly, the Clintons were the ones to shift the White House cuisine from French food to American, and hired a man named Walter Schieb to be the chef overseeing this transition.

I recently attended a tasting of Terry Theise’s grower Champagnes held at Ame Restaurant in San Francisco. I especially enjoyed Chartogne-Taillet, Goutourbe, and Vilmart, but all the wines I tasted were excellent. If you’d like to read Terry’s champagne catalog from this year, you can find it here. Although I enjoyed the tasting immensely, I’m not inspired to recreate the experience on this blog.  However, detailed accounts can be found here, here and here.

Laurent Champs of Vilmart holding court with his admirers:

oct23rdtasting

Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée 1997:

1997vilmart2

This week my husband made a delicious meal of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. He used Richard Olney’s recipe from Simple French Food and our new earthenware pot. earthenwarechickenThe olive oily broth and roasted garlic smeared onto the baguette were as delicious as the juicy and delicious chicken itself. We had the 2005 Filliatreau “La Grand Vignolle” Saumur-Champigny with the meal and I found the pairing to be perfect. The food really made the wine come alive (we hadn’t been particularly enjoying it as an aperitif before we sat down to the table). It smelled of earth and funk and rose-scented make-up (something I often pick up in Cab Franc from the Loire), and each sip was so refreshing.

There is something about Cabernet Franc and chicken…or is it Loire reds and chicken? In New York we had a habit of picking up a rotisserie chicken from Choice Market in Clinton Hill and eating it with Sancerre Rouge or Loire Gamay. Something about how chicken is sort of light, but still complex tasting, and how Loire reds are light, but aromatically complex make such a pairing a successful one!

Olney’s cookbook is a bit daunting for my kitchen stylings (e.g. easy, simple), but my husband has great success with it. It is included in the current issue of Art of Eating’s list of indispensable cookbooks. We are looking forward to working with more of the books on the list, starting with Guiliano Bugialli’s book of Neopolitan cookery! Arthur Schwartz‘s Naples at Table is akin to a bible in our house…almost every dish has become comfort food favorite, so it will be interesting to see how Bugialli competes with the Food Maven!

…but change has come to Amercia!

A popular weekly comic in Japan , called “Kami no Shizuki,” or “The Drops of God”,  features a young man learning about wine amid a mysterious setting. As they follow along, the middle class in Japan is collectively learning about wine as the protagonist does, who is seeking information about his recently deceased father’s love of wine. The brother and sister duo who write the series, fell in love with wine after drinking a nice Burgundy for the first time.  They feature inexpensive wines ($16-20) for drinking at the dinner table, which is a novel concept in Japan where wine has thus far been relegated to fancy restaurants and high price tags are meant to impress friends and colleagues.  Wine merchants use the comic as a sales tool, much in the same way we use scores by Robert Parker or Wine Spectator (although, unlike Wine Spectator, the writers don’t take payment or advertising for their reviews.). China, Korea, and Europe are catching the “Kami no Shizuki” fever as well, where the series has been translated into Mandarin, Korean, French and Italian. I’d like to look at the comics in greater detail, because I’m curious about a few things. If they are presenting wine as a complement to the dinner table, do they make an effort to pair the wine with the food? Or is the protagonist drinking Bordeaux with his ame ebi?

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