Winespiring: Bottles of memories

Winespiring: Bottles of memories

As a wine professional, I sample several wines each week.  Sometimes dozens in a single day.  When I taste a wine for work it is rarely with the thought of whether or not I like the wine.  I taste with the future consumer in mind.  I ask, will it go with the menu or is this price point going to deliver what the guest is looking for?  I look, sniff, swirl… all with the mindset of someone else. When you get into wine as a profession it is common to lose your passion for why you came to this inspiring beverage to begin with.  But sometimes, a wine will remind you of a memory, a snapshot of something ethereal and important.  Something forgotten that you find like a single earring under the rug.  A note of petrol that triggers a quick moment of sitting in the backseat of your parent’s car while they pumped gas with the windows open on a warm day.  Or graphite that takes you back to sharp pencils and algebra tests.  A Cabernet that brought back the taste of red currants growing near the front door of my grandmother’s house. I could not tell you what that Cabernet was.  But I can remember details of picking the sour currants and staining my lips with them.  I appreciate when a wine pulls the past out of my distracted brain.  It is like a microscope of smell and taste that connects me with a former time when I collected all the environmental clues that hold consistency in my glass. It is these olfactory moments that inspire me...
Wine notes with Alicia Lee: Steele winery

Wine notes with Alicia Lee: Steele winery

Wine notes with Alicia Lee Jed Steele has been involved in California wine production for nearly fifty years and has made a difference in the evolvement of California varietals.  He has an affinity for making small production wines from often over-looked varietals, such as Lemberger, Aligote and Counoise.  I find that I appreciate Jed’s approach to winemaking as he has a light touch; he lets the grape and place speak louder than the winemaker, like magic from a humble magician.  In fact, Jed refers to his winemaking style as minimalist, using non-GMO yeasts, natural fermentations and no additives (think Mega Purple).  Gentle pumpover during fermentation and gravity flow movement of the wine ensures that the wines are fresh and unbruised, giving the drinker the purest example of terroir without too much interference.   1st Red – Zinfandel 2012, Lake County AVA, Catfish Vineyard Ah, Zinfandel.  The quintessentially American grape.  From our forays into sweet blush wine to the heady alcoholic red, Zinfandel has been thought to be native to our land.  Before DNA testing proved it to be identical to Primitivo from southern Italy and Crljenak Kaštelanski in Croatia, we thought this little guy was all ours.  But we know now that it most likely came to us by way of Puglia.   I find that I prefer Zinfandels that are blended with other varieties as is the case with some of Ridge Vineyards bottlings.  They are often met with Petite Sirah, Carignan and Mourvedre.  So it did not surprise me to find that the Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel from Steele is a field blend of grapes that include Carignan, Alicante bouschet,...
1926, 1954, 1975: Three old ladies

1926, 1954, 1975: Three old ladies

I hear shuffling and a tentative knock on a paint-cracked bedroom door. I breathe impatiently. “What?” “There is coffee.” My mom’s voice is tired today. She has finished her radiation treatment and all went as well as it could have. But she is always tired now. “I’ll be down later.” I don’t want to get up. It is past noon but what is there to do before work but sit and smoke cigarettes with her? She will want to talk about things I don’t care about. I don’t want to talk at all. I pull my hair up in careless bun, put on old slippers and trudge downstairs. Grandma is at the table, peeling crates of apples from the farm. She would prefer to still be out there, on her land, in her cabin with her books and gin. But after a tumble down the steps, her children decided she had to be watched more. So, mom watches her and I cook for her. (I also give her gin when no one else will.) “Do you have to work today?” Grandma asks hopefully. She would prefer I stay at home and talk with her. I would prefer that too, but I would also prefer to make enough money to move out. At 41 I am back where I started. Living with my mom.   Mom is already out back, smoking her menthols. I guess it is a little ironic that her cancer has nothing to do with 45 years of smoking. The doctor said if it makes her comfortable, then there is little reason to quit now. I just...