Saturday, February 26, 2011

At least my muse isn't dead in a gutter somewhere...

Been tough to write more than a couple of times a week these days. Rather than obsess about getting 3-4 posts out, I just don't do it if I don't have the time. The culprit is work, mostly. I just can't start writing at 11 PM, finish at 2 AM, and wake up at 5:30. Trust me: I need all the beauty sleep I can get.

Hoping Sunday will afford some time to write a few posts (for the record: I've NEVER been able to write more than one in one sitting. Just not enough firepower between the ears). In the meantime, I've posted pictures for some potential topics of upcoming blog posts. Discuss!

I'll be working in Las Vegas most all of next week, so the odds of lots of posts are pretty slim. Hit me on twitter (; if anything, the buzzing of my phone might distract me from dropping hundreds of dollars on a Kansas City Royals spring training game.

future post showing you how to jerk your pork like I jerk my jerk pork.

how to eat and drink beyond your means (the secret is to not look at your bank account and assume all is well).

when the ideas are coming slowly and infrequently, kick the "a glass of wine is 5 oz." myth to the curb.

lobster moustaches: not just for gentlemen anymore.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Now hang on one hot minute.

Last week, I jabbed a thumb in the eye of wine-tasting protocol, using a popular technique of the insecure: sarcasm. It was a joke. In all seriousness, I adore when the person next to me at a tasting gives me the business for not picking up the delicate hints of porpoise dander in the Wild Irish Rose we're sipping...

...wait, was that sarcasm? It doesn't translate well in print, does it?

Anyway, I was having some fun with embellishment on many things I'd heard at tastings. The vast majority of ridiculous statements at wine tastings involve proclamations of unbelievably obscure smells and tastes. However, despite my snark, I honestly believe there can be tremendous value in learning telltale aromas and flavors in wine, as well as probing for new ones.

Cool out! Let me explain this perceived one-eighty.

There's nothing wrong with a frame-of-reference. I strongly subscribe to the notion that a better understanding of a recreational activity makes it far more enjoyable, whether that be watching a hockey game, smoking a brisket, or shooting pool against a guy whose first name is "Detroit". You ain't winning against a guy named "Detroit". I bet he brought his own two-piece pool cue to the table, didn't he? But you didn't have a keen understanding of that. And now you are broke, and likely wounded by knife.

But back to my point. Part of the fun of wine is being able to stick you nose in it and smell apples, chocolate, green pepper, etc. Science has often lauded the strength of olfactory memory, so tasters already have brains full of familiar smells. It's always fun to pick one of those out when sniffing a glass. Case in point: my friend, absurdly talented writer, and professional wine slinger Samantha (of The Wine Country in Long Beach, CA) recently got me on the fast-track to debt by introducing me to "grower" Champagne. These bottlings feature grapes both grown (thus the name) and bottled by the producer, something rare among the big Champagne houses, who usually buy their grapes from other growers to produce their Veuve Clicquots and Dom Perignons. Grower certainly isn't cheap, but can really bring some value if you're looking for incredibly complex flavors and aromas in your everyday $60-80 bottle of sparkling wine (see previous comment about imminent debt).

The last bottle I had was a 2004 Marcel Moineaux Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. 100% Chardonnay ("blanc de blancs" tells you that), and darn tasty. But here's why I bring this whole mess up: that stinkin' wine smelled exactly, EXACTLY like hot, fresh Krispy Kreme donuts. In an instant, some stupid little glass of wine transported me back to Saturdays as a kid. After playing rec basketball games at Roswell, Georgia's Waller Park- nothing more than a rusty shed with some hoops on the walls at the time- the old man would often take my brother and I by the Krispy Kreme on the corner to pick up a revitalizing post-game donut. At this point, the Champagne had become more; I wasn't just drinking an alcoholic beverage. I was triggering a strong olfactory memory that added tremendously to the experience. Pretty cool, huh? Of course, then the smell further triggered memories of how bad I was at basketball, and I got depressed. At that point, the alcohol was ready to serve its needed purpose.

Similarly, having familiar olfactory reference points can enhance the enjoyment of wine. Like I said earlier: having a better understanding of something will often improve the interactive experience. However, the operative word here is "familiar", and that's where I have my big ol' bugaboo. When I hear someone say "organic tangerine blossoms" instead of "citrus"; "overripe peels of fuji apple" instead of "apple"; "petrol" instead of "gasoline" (at least in the States); "Japanese violet" instead of "floral"; "yearling antelope droppings" instead of "poop"... man, I tend to get a little irritated. Yes, there is a tiny percentage of the wine-drinking population that has trained its palate to such sensitivity that differences in types of specific fruit, spice, etc. are perceptible. They're downright freaks of nature. However, for 99% of the population, more general descriptors will not only assist in recognizing flavors in aromas, but will also not alienate novices and make them feel inferior. I'm convinced that most of that obscure, overly-descriptive blather is designed to elevate said blatherers' senses of themselves, while simultaneously causing doubt and confusion among less-pretentious tasters. In more clear terms, those people are irritating assholes.

Here's the takeaway: wine education and sensory frames-of-reference are good, and they can help everyone heighten enjoyment of an incredible beverage. Even very advanced descriptors can be helpful, as long as they are honest (not contrived or regurgitated from a wine publication) and meant only to improve the experience for all...

Of course, maybe you never got to eat a Krispy Kreme donut as a kid. Does that make me an asshole? Probably.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Booze in the News: February 18, 2011

Somebody was drinking when he painted this. I just call 'em how I see 'em.

Railroaded: Sad country songs have long cornered the market on extolling the virtues of alcohol as a means to "ease the pain". I mean, nothing hurts more than your woman cheating with your best friend the same day your dog runs away, your truck breaks down, and Red Man introduces "passionfruit" flavored chew. All of this compounds into the equivalent of being hit by an emotional locomotive. Can anything hurt more, warranting the numbing power of booze? Yes: being hit by an actual locomotive. That's what happen to a Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) man as he was walking down the tracks on February 10. Police report finding the man walking after the incident in an intoxicated state. He "did not seem to realize what hit him... however, indicate[d] he had pain in several parts of his body." The man was treated and found to have no serious injuries. The painkilling effect of booze came through in spades, but I guess they always say that Canadian beer is much stronger.

Atlas Shrugged: The man who holds the wine world upon his booze-pickled shoulders may quietly be at the epicenter of a major shakeup in California. Recently (according to Wine Advocate founder Robert M. Parker announced that he will be handing over the reviewing duties for California wine to his associate, Antonio Galloni. A little history: Parker is widely-known as one who gives very high scores to big, rich, massive wines with dense fruit and structure. Subsequently, wines that get high marks from Parker tend to sell VERY quickly, to a level at which some winemakers have been accused of crafting wine to fit the "Parker" style (anecdotal evidence... what, were you expecting data here?!). Now, Galloni is currently the reviewer for Italian wines, Champagne, and Chablis... not exactly hotbeds of huge, fruit-forward wines. If the new king of California brings his European tastes to the Golden State, will the scores favor leaner, more subtle styles? Will the more fickle California winemakers follow? What about consumers? So many questions yet to be answered. However, one thing is certain: this is perhaps the driest, least entertaining "Booze in the News" snippet yet.

Tearing the roof off the mothersucker, or a southern Rhône grape in the hands of two madmen: History (or at least pop culture) is full of great duos - The Lone Ranger & Tonto; George Clinton & Bootsy Collins; Hawk & Animal; Ponch & Jon; Larry Appleton & Balki Bartokomous; Dirty & Rowdy. Sure, the last two (Santa Rosa's Hardy Wallace and Atlanta's Matt Richardson, respectively) aren't quite household names yet, but they've put an exclamation point on what is now a proud Sonoma-Atlanta alliance by joint-producing a 100% Mourvèdre... and putting it up for sale. Normally- having had the pleasure of tipping glasses with both of these... er... uh... gentlemen?- I'd say this wine might end up having all the charm of a rabid, peg-legged weasel. However, everything- from the NPA to Salinia to A Tribute to Grace- that emerges from the walls of the Salinia Wine Co. seems to turn to melted gold, so I have high hopes for these two. Dirty & Rowdy Mourvèdre, along with a 50/50 blend of that Moo-vedder and Angela Osborne's fantastic Grenache, will be available by mailing list sale only (probably this summer). Ever punched Dustin Diamond in the suckhole, then made out with the tall chick from Back to School while listening to Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" on a jet boat? Pretty sure this wine will be the exact same thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to act at a Wine Tasting

Want to project the appearance of a consummate pro? Yearn to demonstrate the value of your Wine Spectator subscription?

It's time to get SERIOUS about wine, because wine is no laughing matter. It's all about appreciation, and appreciation is about knowing a lot of French words, filling a mental library with obscure fruits, and having a descriptive lexicon fit for MENSA.

Don't fit the bill? Sorry, it's going to be tough for you to enjoy wine the proper way. However, being able to act the part will at least spare you some well-deserved embarrassment in the hallowed presence of wine and its deserving experts.

I've created a cheat-sheet of phrases for you poor souls who aren't good enough to enjoy wine. Memorize these phrases for the next wine tasting you attend. DO NOT DEVIATE from these phrases, and you might- someday- be able to call yourself a wine expert.

1. "Sacre bleu! This Gigondas is so redolent of garrigue."

2. "I don't drink New World plonk."

3. "A flamboyant bouquet of lychee and sandalwood... this is textbook Gewurztraminer."

4. "Ooooh. This wine just screams for braised jackrabbit haunches."

5. "It's as if they took my childhood summers in Provence and put them in a glass. Don't you agree?"

6. "This is an excellent expression of Rheingau terroir. I only drink terroir-driven wines."

7. "Piedmont?! Last time I checked, the Italians called it 'Piemonte'."

8. "French oak barriques are the only way to go, as long as they come from Alliers."

9. "This reminds me of the wines I used to drink."

10. "I don't just drink wine. I appreciate it."




But then again, at times, some of us just want to drink boxed wine out of an empty beer can.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

When a card just doesn't cut it.

If you're like me, you have special lady in your life (or special fella, but that would make you a little less like me). Furthermore, if you're like me, it's the late evening of February 13th, and you've done nothing in preparation for Valentine's Day.

I chalk up V-Day as a necessary evil. February doesn't have a signature holiday, and groundhogs just don't have the star power or panache to carry the month. The feast day was established for martyred Saint Valentinus, but was no-doubt augmented by some mushy card-pusher who was way-into love, teddy bears, and cute little pink hearts. Sorry, I don't cotton to cute little pink hearts...

Anyway, the easy out is to grab a card at the grocery store, scrawl an Air Supply lyric between the fold, add various "X's" and "O's", and hope for the best, banking on the old adage, "it's the thought that counts." Problem is, when was the last time you appreciated a card that didn't have money or a Bass Pro Shops gift card nuzzled within? We've got to do better.

Jewelry? Too expensive.

Roses? Not only are they inedible, but they die after a few days. Plus, in this desperate eleventh-hour situation, the shrewd rose hawkers know they can stick it to poor souls like me who's wives go gaga for their racket. Roses are b.s. Don't do it.

What about chocolates? Too fattening, and the Valentine's ones seem to always be filled with disgusting pink mystery goo; no doubt the boiled-down and reconstituted remains of unsold Christmas candy.

Gentlemen (and ladies in a similar predicament), there's only one option left. In my case, sheer physical perfection is not that option. No, in order to turn this season of stress into a lovers' cruise, we all need to summon our inner "Isaac the Bartender" and set sail on a romantic journey fueled by the sensual power of booze..., in particular. Is there any beverage more pleasurable to the senses? Forget the flowers and the chocolate. If you crack a good bottle and throw together a decent meal, the power of wine will take over.

In some personal research studies, wine has been shown to let guards down 100% of the time. It increases laughter at least by 50%. Wine erases irritation over the absence of gifts of jewelry, chocolate, and/or roses 75% of the time (rate is in direct correlation with the volume of wine consumed).

In an unrelated study, a couple glasses of wine drastically improve the ability to make up fake statistics.

Most importantly, though, a winning "Isaac the Bartender" smile, combined with an "Isaac the Bartender" carefree-and-fun-loving spirit (plus some wine) can often lead to romance. The odds increase dramatically if you are Isaac the Bartender. That mustache is astounding. Here's to you, Isaac. You magnificent bastard.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if you want to stack the odds for love this Valentine's Day- be that a snuggle, some smooches, or full-on Animal Planet-type stuff- snag a bottle of wine, pour a couple glasses, and see where the night takes you.

If anything, it's a good excuse to drink on a Monday night.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Just a comment I left on the Pinot Noir Summit Facebook page (2/26/2011). Blog's been neglected over the past couple weeks, as you stalwart few have noticed. Until blogging, blood/etc. donations, and eating Taco Bell pay a good salary, I'll always have patches where the stupid paying job cuts into the fun hobby. Blame the fact that money buys awesome stuff and diapers.

I feel this comment could be a foray into underwhelming fiction...

One time, I lifted a trembling glass to my eager nostrils and deeply inhaled the smoky, earthy, vibrant aromas of a rare and heralded Burgundy...

...and then the glass bit my hand, and I realized that my peyote-induced Vision Quest in the So...noran desert had led me to mistake a Gila monster for a snifter of Grands Échezeaux. Fortunately, while the bite had snapped me out of the mind-altering effects of psychoactive alkaloids, the poison from the Gila monster bite had set me quite woozy, as a warmth and relaxation spread over my entire body, similar to that of consuming an entire bottle of Pinot Noir.

Oh, wait. I did consume a whole bottle of Pinot. And I've awoken on my living room floor, splayed out awkwardly with garnet-stained Ultima Burgundy glass in hand... 2,000 miles from the Sonoran desert.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tasty China

Some old footage from back in December.

If you live in Atlanta and you haven't been to Tasty China, you're missing out on some of the best Szechuan food in the U.S.

The secret of mercurial chef Peter Chang has long been out (in fact, he's opened a second place in Atlanta), but the cravings never subside. Seeing these pics, I must make arrangements for a plate full of "dried fried eggplant with hot & numbing flavor" soon.

As for you, pack up some off-dry Riesling and prepare for a miserable following day. Living for the moment has never echoes so truly...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

GUEST POST! - Jointing a Chicken: A Moment in Vinous Clarity

I've become quite a curmudgeon in my blogging-old age, and I rarely open this space for a guest post. That is- of course- unless the author is one for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration. Or, I got drunk one night and told someone he could. In this case, it's either the former or the latter. Or both.

Sam Klingberg- Chicago's "Broke Wino" (and @brokewino on Twitter)- has burst onto the scene in the past year or so as one of the sharpest, most clever, and downright uncouth wine bloggers around. He's destined to be the voice of millenial wine drinkers for years to come...

...not to mention Sam's a cool cat with Georgia roots. When he approached me with this article, I said, "sure, I'll post it. It's more interesting and well-thought-out than anything I'll ever write." Plus, it gave me an excuse to post an exceptionally creepy photo I took years ago.

Talk to you soon. Sláinte!

Jointing a Chicken: A Moment in Vinous Clarity
by Sam Klingberg,

Chickens are this: members of petting zoos, and historical attractions. I believe people used to keep chickens as pets before dogs and cats were domesticated. This tradition is still kept alive in Ethiopia where a dinner quest is twice as likely to meet a chicken roosting above his or her head before he'd find anything that most Westerners would consider edible (although I assure you the wot is good.)

Generally, most Westerners also have a similarly primitive idea of what a chicken is. Pinkish cuts of various geometrical shapes that come shrink wrapped and arrayed in yellow styrofoam trays at the supermarket is the generally accepted theory. So it was with this general perception of the most common fowl on the planet that sent me to the kitchen, knife in hand, prepared to live as deliberately as modern life would allow.

Let me back up: I am obsessed with the interwebz. Countless glasses of cheap Sauvignon Blanc have slaked my thirst in hot pursuit of the absolute worst cover of a Train song on You Tube. I couldn't even begin to describe the hours of terrible songs being sung by terrible talent in front of terrible mounds of past-due laundry.

One day, I don't know how, but during a similar journey I stumbled on a video of Gordon Ramsay jointing a chicken. I was the single most awesome thing I had ever seen. I promptly spent the next three days watching every aspiring culinary internet personality hack apart a dead bird's carcass. From transforming live cluckers into organized mounds of meat on a cutting board, to mechanical separation, I couldn't get enough of it.

After I felt that I had an ample understanding of how to make a cute little french cut on the drumstick and properly excise the oyster with those succulent thighs, I headed over to the supermarket to buy my very own whole chicken fryer (Chicago seems to be oddly dearth of live fowl to butcher.) I returned home knife in hand, cutting board in place, and a cold, goose-bumped carcass awaiting my culinary experiment. I mean, the thing was already dead, what's the worst thing that could happen?

I soon realized, though, why almost everyone on You Tube had the big ass hunk of wood cutting board. My little plastic one slipped and slid around the counter recklessly, which was a little scary. But the feeling sharp steel cutting through bone, flesh, and sinew was too intoxicating to allow me to fear for my future maneuverability. Prehensility be damned.

I felt like a little school girl, watching the familiar "roasting" bird transform into succulent thighs and juicy tenderloins. Those strange looking pieces that were so familiar rolled in bread crumbs and sizzling in an oven set to 425º suddenly had a sense of place. I always knew it was a "thigh" but it certainly didn't seem like anything that could be part of a leg. But now, I could actually feel it. I popped that sucker out of joint and sliced cleanly through pure bone and tendon. There was no denying it once supported any and all vertical endeavors.

I've been obsessed with the Mâconnais lately. Perhaps because I went to high school in Macon, GA, sister city of the region's namesake, Mâcon (Pronounced, MAH-cone, I think.) Perhaps because it produces beautiful, damn straight succulent chardonnay. And, so affordable! You wouldn't believe the $15-$20 bottles of golden righteousness you can get. Producers like Rijckaert, Thévenet, and Chateau la Greffière will slay your palate. There simply will be no turning back.

Like a chicken has it's delicious dark meat in the extremities and coveted tenderloins tucked neatly between the sternum and the breast, wine is just as much about place. And Mâcon, for me, is a perfect opportunity to experience terroir, or the "somewhere-ness" of wine, without a small-business loan (because serious drinking is absolutely a business, have you seen Bordeaux prices lately?)

There's a limestone belt that sits underneath the Viré-Clessé, that's what it tastes like. St-Véran has spritely wines thanks to its sandy soil, and the under-appreciated Lugny is like a jolly, plump sister. All of these sub-regions of Mâcon have personality, and will make you down right butt-naked nasty about wine. Guaranteed.

This is just a little insight into why I'm so crazy about wine. And assuming you drink responsibly, taking a dive through the Mâconnais carries a hell of a lot less danger than slicing through a bunch of chicken bones. Go get that oyster.