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Friday, January 25, 2013

In Moderation

It’s January and it’s finally cold out, at least for now.  January is also the peak of flu season, and the flu seems pretty tough to beat this year, especially without a vaccination.  Most of the people I know have gotten the vaccination - I haven’t.  I did try, a couple of weeks ago, but locations near me were completely sold out.  I’m hoping I’m not speaking too soon, but so far I’m feeling pretty lucky.  I’d like to think I’ve been able to fend it off by having a glass of orange juice every morning and a reasonable amount of wine every night.  I’ve got myself convinced that’s the formula for keeping healthy.  That, and a few other factors.

I’ve mentioned several times in this blog that I was an attorney.  I’m not going to give away my age, but let’s say that I know a lot of people my own age who have plenty of grey hairs.  Toward the end of my first year of law school, a few of us girls started observing how many grey hairs we’d developed over the first year.  I was shocked at how many I had - I was only 22.  Stressful things like that tend to age us a bit quicker than we’d like.  (I also pointed out to a few friends in law school that my grey hair accumulation probably also could be attributed to the relationship I was in at the time, and I’m sticking with that story - that was far worse than anything law school could have handed me.)

I noticed during those years that I got sick quite often.  I didn’t like how I looked - my hair was thinning and greying, I had all but lost my natural tan, and I had almost no energy anymore.

After changing my life around, both professionally and personally, I noticed some positive changes in how I looked and how I felt.  If I had kept on the path of stress and unhappiness, I’d probably feel pretty lousy right now, and I’d certainly have a lot more grey hair (I’m still in my 20s, so there’s no excuse for too many greys).  But something I added to my life was a lot more wine.

I’ve heard from many sources all about the benefits of drinking more wine - including preventing Alzheimer’s disease, heart troubles, and cancer - as long as it’s in moderation of course.  And for that matter, it’s fun and relaxing, so as long as it’s not done to excess, it’s good for mental health as well.

Several years after law and an unfortunate long-term relationship, my natural tan has returned, my hair looks about the same as when I was in my early 20s, I’ve got my energy level back to where I want it, and overall, I feel good and quite happy.  I’d like to think it’s at least partly because I enjoy wine in moderation every night.  Aside from drinking wine for enjoyment, I’ve started thinking of it as part of my regular diet.

Each time someone tells me that their doctor has suggested drinking more wine, I feel better about my theory on wine and its health benefits.  I’m guessing there are even more benefits from drinking wine that we’ve yet to discover.  No, it’s not an excuse to get drunk all the time, because that’s obviously not the healthy way to enjoy wine.  But in moderation, like anything else, it has its benefits - and it certainly tastes better than a lot of other healthy things!

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”  1 Timothy 5:23

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ready for Spring Already

I’ve never cared much for winter.  In fact, aside from heavy traffic, winter is probably the only real issue I have with living in New York.  I’d like it best if it were 80+ degrees every day, sunny and warm.

But in the winter, big bold reds are in - we pair them with heavier dishes and we sip them by the fireplace.  Big reds are nice, I do love a good Bordeaux or Rhone or Barolo, but as soon as spring arrives, I’m eager to open some lighter style reds and some crisp clean whites, and before long, it’s time for dry rose.

All winter I think about “rose season” - days at the beach, evenings on the porch, shellfish dinners and barbecues - the warm months are my favorite time of the year, by far.  Once the festive wines and Champagnes of Christmas and New Year’s Eve are over, I’m ready for the warm weather.

And even in the spring and summer, there are plenty of occasions to enjoy the big bold reds, especially Aussie Shiraz and California Zinfandel and Mendoza Malbec - when grilling delicious burgers and steaks outdoors and enjoying dinner on the porch.  But Sancerre, Riesling, and Albarino are the crisp cool whites that pair with most warm weather dishes - fresh cheeses, chilled shellfish, and of course it’ll be time for that lovely dry rose from Provence.

I know we’re only halfway through January, but it can’t hurt to look forward to everything about spring and summer.  It’s like Phil Connors tells us in Groundhog Day - “Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on its smiling face a dream of spring.”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Two Years

I recently finished reading Atlas Shrugged (finally) - it certainly took me long enough, but to be fair to myself, the book is over 1,000 pages.  I decided to keep it light and fun after finishing that book, so I selected Julia Child’s My Life in France.  

Already I’m enjoying her book so much - the imagery, the honesty, and following her every step of the way is fun for me since she’s one of my culinary idols (in fact, I admire much more about her life than just her culinary achievements).  What’s intriguing to me is how quickly she learned a great many things, both simple and complicated techniques, a culture and language with which she was initially unfamiliar, and so much more.

In a sense, she makes me feel inspired to keep on learning and when learning, to stay positive, find my passion, and go with it - and enjoy it all the way.

It’s amazing, just how much a person can learn in a short amount of time, when he/she is having a wonderful time learning, sharing the process with others, and seeing where it takes that person.  I find it wonderful when someone takes on a new project or learns something new for the fun of it, only to watch it develop into a profession.

Two years ago this week, I started my wine blog.  I’ve mentioned it before that I started learning about wine just for fun, because I had taught myself some basic dishes to create, and was enjoying cooking, and felt it was time to learn some about wine pairing.  After a short time, I began teaching myself to write tasting notes (although they were primitive tasting notes), and I started researching grape types and regions.  About five months later, wine began speaking to me differently - it wasn’t just for fun anymore.  I wanted it to be a much bigger part of my life, and decided to sit for the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1 course and exam.  What frightened me a bit on the first day was that nearly everyone else in the room was quite experienced in the wine industry, and I was a lowly blogger with just a few months of writing under my belt.  What was I doing there, anyway?  Who was I trying to kid?  Well, after the exam on the second day, Champagne in hand, I heard my name called to receive my certificate - I had passed, after just a few weeks of studying Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible.  No, I didn’t think I knew everything about wine, but I was beginning to realize that I should at least give the wine industry a try, and that I was indeed capable of learning quickly about wine.  And most importantly, I knew I was going to enjoy it - I just didn’t know how much fun it would be.

I’m so happy with what the past two years have taught me, both about myself and about wine.  While I wish I knew sooner that I was going to enter this industry, it’s certainly “better late than never.”  Last week I was riding the train home from the city and I had two bottles sticking out of my messenger bag - I was coming home from the office.  The gentleman seated next to me spotted the bottles of Bordeaux and Rhone and wanted to know if he could ask me a few questions about wine.  I removed my earbuds - Ella Fitzgerald can wait until later, I decided - I’d be happy to talk with him about wine.  I’m happy to talk with ANYONE about wine!  An hour later we were still talking about wine, food, etc., and he asked me, “So, what do you do?”  I answered, “Well, I was an attorney, but (reaching into my messenger bag to pick up the bottles) now I’m a wine rep and sommelier,” to which he replied, “That’s wonderful, making such a change, especially since you still seem pretty young.  You must love your work.”

Photo courtesy of J. Mitchel Photography
I do love my work.  Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’m so glad I made the decision to start my blog and ultimately enter the wine industry.  I’ve heard that the happiest people are the ones who love what they do for a living.  And I also think it’s important that people find their passion and pursue it, because what starts out as something “just for fun” can turn into a path in life that brings the person a great deal of happiness.  I’ve learned that even a less than perfect day on the right path is far better than the perfect day on the wrong path.

So, while I continue reading Julia Child’s book and watching the dvds of Julia and Jacques Pepin (another of my favorites) working together in the kitchen, I’m reminded of how important it is that I found my passion, that I continue along the right path, and that while wine may have started as something “just for fun” in my life, it’s my obligation to keep on learning and stay on the right path.  Two years ago, when I started this blog, I had no idea what wine would bring to me, and what my life would have in store for me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2007 Chateau Bouscasse Madiran

I had an awesome wine from Sud-Ouest the other night.  I know this isn’t a surprise, since I drink wines from South West France regularly, but this one was REALLY good.  Those dark, wild, meaty, earthy wines are perfect when it’s cold outside, and I love sipping them fireside or pairing them with winter dishes.

This time it was the 2007 Chateau Bouscasse Madiran.  I love wines from Madiran - they’re so dark and earthy and unique, and I love the acidity they tend to show, due to the fact that they’re mostly made up of Tannat.  This one was Tannat with some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, that sort of rounded it out and gave it a smoothness ideal for sipping on a cold evening.  The Tannat makes it bright and clean enough to pair with lots of dishes, meats, cheeses, etc. - it’s just a nicely structured wine.  The color, as expected, is very dark with hints of ruby, and the wine shows characteristics of mostly stewed dark fruit, berry, plum, some wild fruit, tobacco, meatiness, and an honest rustic presence that makes it quite expressive.

Last night I bought a few more wines online, and three of them are Sud-Ouest.  They all looked quite different from any of the South Western wines I’ve been enjoying, so I’m looking forward to trying them!