Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

kosherwine.jpgThe other day I took a walk through Wally's, my local wine emporium's autumn sale and was bottle shocked by the number of kosher wine choices on display—Ninety-seven Jewtique labels. From Israel to Australia to the Valley of Napa, there are rabbis rendering grapes right for Jewish tables the world over.

Although pleased as wine punch that my brethren can sip with confidence from so many vineyards at all the holiday tables to come, I felt drowned in a sudden wave of nostalgia, for, over in a less popular corner, I spied some "Man Oh Manischewitz – What a Wine" languishing, neglected for a mere $4.99 in its own dust.  

And a flood of bittersweet tasting memories ensued…of my parentally enforced Prohibition.  The years of my youth when I was served Welch's grape juice in a grown up glass at the holidays to placate my longing for the real deal.  I sipped the faux, while the elders were slurping Manichevitz, the manna of the God, the only choice in that era, with lip-smacking satisfaction.  I'd lift my grape laced goblet, toast and boast—'Lookit! Lookit how fast I can drink it!" 

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lemon-straws.jpgEven though I take all those silly self portraits of me doing absolutely nothing and blog about trips to pretty places I am not much of the relaxing type of guy. I’m actually quite the opposite and find myself nervous or antsy when I’m sitting still. The thought of midday naps freak me out and stopping to sit down for tea or coffee in the afternoon is a luxury I rarely allow myself. Even if I had the time I’d still feel like I was missing something or that something terrible would happen because I wasn’t working working working working working.

Yea, I have issues. I know this. But I’m trying to grow and slow down just a little bit.

When I got home the other day after I was greeted by Adam clanking away in the kitchen. He had the urge to bake and it’s an urge I completely encourage. Who doesn’t like fresh baked anything the second they walk in the door? But I had a chunk of editing to do and had to submit some images to the magazine I was working for that day before running to Fed Ex to send out a package.

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wallys.jpgIf you spent three days driving throughout the Central Coast wineries, from Santa Barbara to Los Pasos, you could not have sampled a fraction of the wines you could have in an hour at Wally’s 8th Annual Central Coast Food and Wine celebration. The event benefits the Michael Bonaccorsi UC Davis Scholarship Fund and the endowment at Allan Hancock College for students who want to pursue careers in Viticulture and Enology. There were over 55 wineries serving 150 unique wines you could sniff, swirl, taste and savor. It was like wandering from room to room in one of your favorite art museums only to discover another gallery filled with astonishing paintings you’ve never seen before.

In addition to such luminaries as Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Melville and The Hitching Post, to name a few, there were dozens of small hands-on wineries. Hard to find wines whose producers grow their own grapes, ferment them, and even drive to local wine stores to sell them. You could chat, query, and get a deeper appreciation of what goes into making unique wines in a market increasingly dominated by wine consultants and corporate ownership. Although the Central Coast is known for its distinctive Pinots and Chardonnays there was a healthy dose of Syrahs and Grenaches. These grapes are poised to make the same kind of impact in California that Cabernets did in the 90’s and Pinots in the 2000’s.

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jones2.jpgWhat could be better than to customize the label on your soda? Well, yeah, world peace, but in the meantime, Jones Soda, which my daughter Lena turned me on to, has done that. Right from the beginning.  In fact, they’ve gotten awards for their unique packaging and constantly changing labels, which are generated and submitted by their customers. Their attitude is clearly expressed by other product lines such as their energy drink: WhoopAss.  This season you can give the gift of Holiday Collectors Packs.  Be “thankful” Thanksgiving is over. They had Turkey and Gravy Flavor.  Look out Bernie Botts. 


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wine-tasting.jpgThe more wines you try, the more you'll develop your palate-it's that simple.  And how you try them makes all the difference.  I know when you see wine tasters doing a lot of curious slurping it seems like a highly mysterious activity...but it's not.  Swirl, sniff and spit, that's all it is.  So why do we swirl?  What are we looking for exactly?  What is acidity?  Tannin?

The first step in wine tasting is to fill your glass until it's about a third full.  Take a good look at it.  Tilt it slightly against a white background or hold it up to the daylight to see the range of colors from the center to the rim.  Older red wines start to fade at the rim with a browny, tawny color.  Red wines from hotter climates and gutsier red grape varieties have the deepest colors.

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