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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Blind Red Wine Tasting and Maya

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 21, 2018

I had so much fun tonight I just had to write about it. For eight years my stepdaughter Maya Maya Masters Degree (2) and I used to work together selling wine, and also picking fruit for it, and bottling it, and labeling it. I also irrigated the orchard, weeded, pruned, planted, plugged gopher holes, hauled sugar (dextrose) and added it in increments to the fruit fermantation tanks, cleaned tanks, filtered the wines when necessary, and helped keep the inventory up to date. We both got to learn a lot about how to make fruit wines, and how to pair them with food, which is really the best way to appreciate it. So tonight we went to a (grape) wine tasting, and not just any wine tasting, but a blind wine tasting. I’ve been to these before, and it’s always fun. It might have a lot to do with the size of the tastings, and incredible food, but it’s a real joy for me to have my stepdaughter join me. We were in the wine loft at Slate Street Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Slate Street    wine-slate-loft

There are usually five wines to try to identify the varietal, and they gave us eight choices to pick from. After we loaded up on hors d’oeuvres like short ribs, and cheeses, and bread, crackers, vegetables, and such, we settled into tasting the wines. I usually try them with different foods to see how they pair.  The 2015 Reserve Merlot from Waterbrook in Walla Walla, Washington was good with the ribs, but fantastic with the cheeses there. It was so good I thought it might be a cab, but no, I missed my guess. My stepdaughter got this one correct. Next up was a similar wine, a 2015 Tempranillo from Manon (Aviva) in Castilla, Spain. We both got that wrong, but it’s a good wine, excellent with the short ribs.

I should mention that in past blind tastings, I’ve gotten three out of five correct. In tonight’s tasting I got all five wrong! I actually thought the Malbec might have been a Syrah, and guessed Tempranillo for the Pinot Noir. The 2016 Malbec was from Bodini in Argentina, and the 2014 Pinot Noir from Brancott Estates in New Zealand. Both good wines, but I’m out of practice with grape wines.

Finally, we got to the best wine: a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Vigilance in Lake County, California. O yeah! this was good. I didn’t like cabs when I was younger: too astringent in my mouth. But, even though I’ve come to appreciate Cabernet Sauvignon much more, this one really wowed me. Complex, and tasty, and much smoother than I would have expected from a cab. We got to re-taste two of the wines after the big reveal, so we got to sample a previously untasted, but excellent Garnacha, (or Grenache), and of course had a bit more of the Shannon Ridge (Vigilance) Cabernet Sauvignon.

There were more foods brought out, like a delightful melted cheese/bread combo, and some coconut shrimp, but I didn’t see where the shrimp paired at all with any of the wines. Tasty though.

Maya had a good time, even though she had initially been tired from work, but she livened up as the evening went on. We talked about wine, and the closure of the winery we had worked at, Anasazi Fields*, and our sadness at the loss of the vintner, the winery itself, and the fantastic wines. We don’t see each other as often since the winery closure, so it was a good chance to catch each other up on things in our lives. She is done with school, she says, after getting her Master’s degree, but is now taking a class on beer: history, varietals, and tastings. Her homeowner association is taking action against the shoddy workmanship in the little complex she is in. Cracks in many of the walls, leaky roofs, and some substandard materials, but Maya’s place is in pretty good shape. I built her a concrete patio last year, and she’s enjoying it.

I continue my education in acting, and told her about a strange table read yesterday that turned into a movie trailer shoot. I hadn’t memorized my lines at all, since I had thirty pages of dialogue and little time to memorize it, and because I thought it was simply a read-through. Nope, the director/writer/producer wanted it on video as his class project, so we got it done by cutting and restarting almost line by line. Terrible miscommunication there. We only shot 6 or 7 pages out of the 111 total in the script, but that’s all he wanted. I wish I’d known that because I’d have nailed that part of the script in the time I had. Oh, well, that’s the movie culture around here. Some things happen, some don’t.

All in all, I had really been looking forward to my time with Maya, and this was a wonderful evening. I really love spending time with her.

 

        Sour Grapes

And, alas, the winery is nearly empty. 6000+ gallons of bulk wine had to be destroyed due to alcohol regulations. We had a huge 50%-off sale to dispose of the bottled wine, and in the end there were still a lot of the unusual wines like blueberry, and fig, and also some blackberry and old peach and prickly pear, and some small-batch varieties. The remaining bottles were given to the partners to haul away. The cellar is empty. The bottle room is empty. Most of the artworks have been removed from the walls. By tomorrow, the big workspace and community event room will be cleaned out of all items no one wanted. The dozens of stainless-steel storage tanks (from 6oo gallon, incremented by halves down to 37.5 gallon) will have been taken away for scrap. The new owners (who publish a local newspaper) will not be making wine. However, they will continue to allow the large space to be used for community events, like the November Holiday Show, in which artists and craftspeople throughout the Placitas area showcase their work. The show also includes the grade school’s gym & auditorium space, and a huge white tent set up by the local church.

On the weekend of Mother’s Day every year, the winery hosted a few booths for the artists and craftspeople of the Placitas Studio Tour, a two-day experience which is barely enough time to visit all the artists in their homes and studios throughout Placitas. The new owners say they want to continue to have the winery space used for this purpose. Other meetings and events that usually took place at the winery will likely continue, but without the generous tastings of dry fruit wines.

Posted in family, food, In front of the camera, Life, love, My Life, wine | 2 Comments »

Another Month Begins; Not Bored Yet!

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 6, 2017

Last month wasn’t very busy. I was paid to work as a background actor on the TV series Graves, just once, and I worked a few hours on a local independent film for no pay. I only hiked three times. I took a weekend acting class. I had an audition – no word on that. There was a shareholder’s meeting, at the 21-year-old winery I have been working at for the last seven years, to try to figure out what to do next after the death of our founder. I had a CT SCAN/angiogram on my heart with a fancy new machine that looked like a giant metal donut. I left a bit woozy from the drug and the scan. I saw my new heart doctor for the results, and I had a pre-exam for my upcoming annual health checkup. The culmination of July was an acting gig for a 48-Hour Movie project, which is part of an international competition among people who make a short movie in 48 hours from start to finish, including all editing, and that led to two events in August.

Director

That’s me (in hat, sunglasses, scarf) as a fake director for the movie within the movie

So August started rolling right away on the 1st, with a day at the winery netting grapes to keep the birds from eating them. We’re keeping the winery going for now. Anyone want to buy a winery? I think that’ll happen soon. I got the see the 48-Hour movie we made on Thursday August 3rd, along with 13 other shorts, out of 41 total. I decided to celebrate with my fellow Group A participants at local brewery Sidetrack, getting a shrimp po’ boy to eat from Crazy Daves’ food truck outside (to balance the two pints of heavy beer). Since the second group of short movies (Group B) finished while we were there, a few of us wandered over to Boese Brothers Brewery nearby for their after party, and I had another beer. A late night, and it cost quite a few bucks, but it was fun.

CCG movie 2017

The Casting Coffee Group who made the movie

Saturday the 5th, there was a meeting of group I’m part of that made the 48-Hour movie. We’re certain we’ve won several awards, but we won’t know until August 18.

After that, I went to the 11th Annual Gala of the Guerrilla Photo Group, a wonderful collection of photographers, models and makeup people, who not only improved my photography skills, but introduced me to the local movie-making scene. There were lots of friends there, a dozen sexy models, lots of photos to view and to vote on as a favorite. My favorite was of a wonderfully sexy teacher/poet with a book centered firmly between her thighs, but it was already sold.

Had another beer at the Albuquerque Press Club’s bar, so I also visited the Pink Ladies’ food truck for a fantastic carne adovada burrito.

Today it was back to Sunday Chatter, the weekly Sunday morning music concert. This one was not as wildly fantastic as the last one I wrote about, but it was nice. A husband and wife duo played music for cello and guitar that they had rearranged from traditional presentations. An orchestral piece by Gabriel FaurĂ© still sounded damn good for just cello and guitar. Four of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works for harpsichord were recreated by having the guitar play the notes for one hand, and the cello play the notes for the other hand. (No. 8 in F Major, No. 10 in G Major, No. 6 in E Major, and No. 13 in A Minor). Fun!

There followed a piece from Oliver Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time”, but of course, only performed on two instruments. And there was “Allegretto Comodo” by Radames Gnattali, and “Reflexoes No. 6” by Jaime Zenamon. The duo is called Boyd Meets Girl, and they’ve just released a CD of their arrangements.

Boyd-Metcalf

Laura Metcalf and Rupert Boyd

There was some great cornbread too: blue corn meal, corn, cheese, and chile, blue corn two pieces of which I scarfed down with my freshly espressed caffè americano.  americano

25 days still to go in the month of August!

Doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, and a movie audition in the afternoon. More netting of grapes at the winery on Tuesday, and another shareholder’s meeting next Sunday. Hopefully I’ll have news of our 7-minute movie being wildly successful on the 18th. But, for now, the rest of the calendar for August is empty.

 

 

Posted in coffee, food, friends, In front of the camera, Life, medical, music, My Life, photography, wine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I was wrong about wine most of my life

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 24, 2017

I decided to respond to a Quora question:”What have you assumed was exaggerated until you experienced it?” since I’ve been working in a winery for seven years, cleaning ditches, weeding, picking fruit, fermenting fruit, pumping, filtering, bottling, labeling and selling wine. I wrote:

Well, lots of things, really, throughout my whole life, but I’m going to just focus on wine. Most of us, especially when young, make fun of all that wine tasting stuff, like swirling the glass, or sniffing the “bouquet”, and can’t figure out what wine goes with what food, often resorting to anyone else’s recommendation, but always feeling like it doesn’t really make any difference: wine is wine. I thought the whole thing was made up or grossly exaggerated. Which is not to say there really aren’t posers who do not know what they are talking about, or try to impress, regardless of how much or little they actually know.

Anyway, I found out many things when I began working at a winery, and actually making wine, and not just grape wine, but wine made from cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, apples, blackberries, raspberries, and even cranberries, among many others. Only wine grapes don’t need any additions of sugar to ferment, having a high enough sugar content to make a strong alcoholic beverage. But, by adding sugar, slowly, incrementally, to fruit, any fruit, you can make damn fine wines too.

I say this because I would not have learned as much from a few grape wines as I have from fruit wines. Yes, it does make a big – a huge difference – what wine you have with your meal. If you’re just drinking wine to get drunk, or impress people, it doesn’t matter much what you drink. Fruit juice with distilled alcohol will do.

However, one of the first things I learned is that wines to be paired with food need to be dry, that is, without sugar. If all the sugar is converted to alcohol, you get a very superior wine. It can take quite a while to do that, but it’s worth it. Drinking a sweet wine coats your tongue with sugar and makes tasting anything else difficult: the fine flavors of food can be masked by sugar. And, dry doesn’t mean bland or high in alcohol content; dry table wines can be very fruity and complex with layers of flavors.

But, even drinking dry wines with food takes a little bit of consideration. A very light-tasting food needs a light-tasting wine. White wine with chicken or fish, sure, but not if the chicken is heavily spiced, or the fish is something like salmon. But, a strong grape wine, like a cabernet sauvignon, will completely overpower the taste of some milder foods. Drink them with red meats like buffalo, for sure.

Very strong-flavored foods need a strong-flavored wine. A rich-tasting wine will complement the salmon you’re eating, neither taking away the flavor of the food, nor being overpowered by it. In our winery we have an apricot wine, served by itself or blended with a white grape wine, that we use for things like salmon, blackened tuna, or aged cheeses. For really strong, pungent cheese, we recommend that or a 100% peach wine.

When it comes to spicy food, we recommend a red grape wine blended with wild cherry wine, the pure wild cherry wine itself, or plum wines. The plum is particularly great with curried foods.

For meats that same red wine/ wild cherry wine mix works great, or other all-fruit wines we blend.

Now, none of this is to convert you to fruit wines other than grapes. There are some really great grape wines. It is just to illustrate the point that you have to experiment with wines to see what foods they complement. (I used to only drink whites like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sĂ©millon or pinot grigio. Now I can finally appreciate red wines, even cabs.) I hated the intense pure apricot wine until I tried it with venison; suddenly the apricot flavor jumped out at me, and the heavy gaminess of the meat was toned down. I don’t like blue cheese, or any of the moldy-looking strong cheeses, but I tried them with this powerful peach wine, and suddenly I could appreciate the flavor of the cheeses, and the wine. This happens at some level with all wines. If you can’t taste the wine after a few bites of your food, or if you can’t taste your food after a few sips of wine, it’s not the best experience.

Another thing I learned is that the whole point of wine, from the very beginning of The Grapes of Wine viticulture, was to accompany food. It can heighten the flavors in your food, making the meal a real joy, which makes you feel pretty good, compliment the chef, and smile. As long as you don’t overindulge in the dinner wine, you will be able to enjoy your wine and your food, and not actually feel drunk. Drink some water too along with your meal. The water and the wine help your digestion. Sweet wine? – after your meal. And maybe have it with a little dessert too, yeah?

 

Posted in food, My Life, Random Thoughts, wine | Leave a Comment »

 
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