To Drink and Think

Crotchety and tempestuous. Blessed and grateful. Productive and contributing member of society or permanently attached to the chaise with endless reruns of Grey's Anatomy? These are the grand choices I struggle with. Okay, how about somewhere in between? Just finished up with another wine club newsletter, and thought I'd share my favorite wines from one of the best-kept secrets in Sonoma with you this month. These wines aren't available everywhere (what would be the fun in that?) so if you are tempted, you can always get them at my shop, or online direct from the winery.

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Porter Creek This has got to be one of my favorite producers in Sonoma. It's super-small, the tasting room is an old shed located next to their chicken coop, and the wines are superb.  Their dedication to the land and the grapes is nothing short of amazing-- and the wines prove it. Winemaker/owner Alex Davis focuses on minimal manipulation in the cellar, which allows the authentic nature of the grapes to shine.

2010 Fiona Hill Pinot Noir Retail: $43

Truly a delight, the Fiona is rarely available, as every vintage sells out almost instantly. Feminine and sensual, with notes of crushed cranberry and raspberry, with a shot of minerality and woodsy depth in the midpalate. Try to hold off for at least six more months, though it is unmistakably gorgeous now. Would be perfect with a springtime appetizer of morel mushrooms on brioche toast.

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2011  Mendocino Carignane Retail: $27

Carignane, a traditional Rhone blending grape, is full of rustic and charming character. This bottling from old vines is brash and a little bit spicy, with some brooding dark fruits thrown in for good measure. Think about pairing with short ribs, grilled quail, or even a hefty, grass-fed burger.

2012 Sonoma County Rosé Retail: $22

My darling, my love-- Rosé. No I am not biased. This bottling is FANTASTIC. $22 might seem like a bit steep for picnic wine, but Good Lord. This wine is usually only available to Porter Creek's wine club members, but guess who managed to get her hot little hands on a case? Moi! Fresh and vibrant, this wine races with acidity and delights the palate with strawberry, rhubarb, kiwi, and a touch of orange blossom. Drink this with charcuterie. Drink this with cheese and olives. Drink it with fried chicken. Drink it with pork tenderloin, ham, pasta, sandwiches... Drink it alone, standing up in the kitchen while you do the dishes and listen to Nouvelle Vague. Just drink it, and smile.

Is Wine a Reason?

I sell wine. Every week, my distributor reps come in and we taste new wines, searching to fill holes in my current inventory and try out new producers. I get to write shelftalkers and wine club newsletters, using my words to tempt customers into trying something new and different. I talk to every single person that comes into the shop and assess their needs, budget, and preferences in order to match them with their perfect wine for that particular moment. Oh, and I get to take home samples and leftover wines at the end of the day.

But what is it, really, that I do? I love the wine industry, and I love the fun parts of my job. Honestly even the unglamorous aspects like washing tasting glasses and spit buckets, breaking down hundreds of cardboard boxes, and dealing with an astonishing number of snooty wine snobs are just a small price to pay. However, at the end of the day, I sell wine. Is this to be my contribution to society? To provide you with one great bottle for one night's worth of fleeting happiness? If I do my job correctly, you take a bottle of wine home, to a dinner party, and while drinking it, you remark upon it's remarkable taste and glorious finish. Perhaps you even take note of the producer and vintage and vow to buy more (hopefully from me.) But is this it?

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I don't mean to denigrate my industry and my small place in this world. I love wine with a sometimes overwhelming passion that threatens to subsume all other considerations.  And in these moments, I turn to the only thing I have ever turned to in times of frustration and aimlessness-- I turn to writing. I work on my book and I type these blog posts and continue to search for that which will satisfy my yearning soul. But I fear this is a question that not only I struggle with. Across all industries, do we all sometimes wallow in doubt? I despise regret and have no wish to visit with it. But if we chase the goal of regretting nothing, do we perhaps move too fast to see the truth in our actions? I make nothing. I give no tangible objects or benefits to the world at large. Is wine then, reason enough for being and breathing?

I'm not sure. I think I shall open up a bottle of vintage champagne and contemplate this some more.

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Stilettos for Spatulas

I used to be completely and totally obsessed with shoes. I was the typical Sex and the City watching, Manolo Blahnik fiending, girly cocktail drinking chick. I spent large portions of my paycheck on gorgeous strappy stilettos and chunky wedges. I loved shoes.

I'm not sure exactly when I stopped caring about shoes so much and started caring about kitchenware. It didn't happen suddenly, but one day I noticed it had been a year since my last shoe expenditure and I still didn't have and money in my savings account. Where, pray tell, was all my money going?

I glanced around my cluttered kitchen and and spied the new magnetic knife rack we had yet to install. I saw the jars of anchovies and capers lined up next to a plethora of vinegars and oils. I thought of the new tea strainer nestled in the drawer, alongside the new egg timer and the new cheese grater. And then it dawned on me: I had unconsciously traded in Jimmy Choo for Cuisinart!

Not that I don't still adore gorgeous footwear, but I've acquired a deeper love for all sorts of culinary tools and specialty ingredients. It's clearly where much of my money is going. And if Macy's Union Square's Shoes on Two is heaven for a shoe junkie, the its kitchenware equivalent is Kamei Housewares and Restaurant Supply on Clement Street.

If you owned a Chinese restaurant and you wanted to set up the entire kitchen and dining room for not a lot of money, this is the place you would go. They have ridiculously low prices on everything from flatware and plates to pots, pans, salt shakers and sake cups. The enormous space is positively packed with narrow aisles just exploding with everything you could ever want for your kitchen. 

And trust me, I want it all! I never leave without spending at least $40. Even if all I came in for was chopsticks, you'd better believe I'm coming out with a zester, a deep frying ladle, some tupperware, and maybe even a new serving platter as well. It's simply impossible to describe the overwhelming sense of joy and excitement I feel when wandering the aisles of Kamei. Perhaps this makes me seem like a bit of an obsessive food-gadget nerd, but it cannot be helped. 

Though I may not necessarily need all these wonderful tools, I feel more relaxed and confident in the kitchen, just knowing they're nearby. And you know, come to think of it, i don't need sexy stilettos either. But strangely enough, I feel more confident and relaxed in them as well. Funny how that is.