Sunday, September 26, 2010


For some reason, I have a subscription to Wine Spectator magazine. I have tried to get rid of it, but it keeps arriving.

It stems from when I found an offer for a free issue, or something. I think the deal was that I’d have a free issue sent to me, then I’d get a postcard asking if I wanted to continue. If I sent it back checked “CANCEL,” they’d stop sending me issues. If I didn’t, they’d keep sending issues and eventually bill me.

Either they never sent the postcard, or they sent it and it never got to me, or I received it and just didn’t notice, because the next thing I knew, I had a bill. It’s an expensive magazine, and it’s mainly aimed at people who can afford expensive magazines. There are a lot of tips on building the perfect wine cellar and where to stay in the Alps.

In an ad they run to attract advertisers, they even refer to their readers as “affluent.”

Anyway, I canceled that subscription, and they were very understanding about it. They said I could keep any additional issues I’d received already free of charge, and they’d waive the price.

But I kept getting the magazine. Every month I get another one, and every month I make a mental note to investigate and make sure they’re not going to send me another bill. And every month I forget to investigate, until the following month’s issue arrives.

Anyway, flipping through the most recent one to arrive, I found some recipes. A Napa Valley chef shared some dishes that would pair well with wines. One of them involves boiling spaghetti in wine.

I made it last night. I didn’t want to waste any good stuff to boil pasta in, so I wandered over to Andy’s Fruit Ranch and picked up the cheapest bottle I could find. I wound up with this:2007 Fiorano Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. $5.99.

They say you shouldn’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink, but this recipe involves boiling an entire bottle of red wine. That's just too much going into the food instead of into a glass.
As I chopped up the turnip greens and set about the other prep work, I popped open the bottle, and Jen and I took a little swig. It was awful.

Kind of a weak handshake of a wine, with a bit of a septic tank bouquet. I worried a bit; I was going to heat this stuff to boiling and soak food in it. But maybe it would be okay. Maybe it would amount to a tinge of wine flavoring instead of a full infusion.

I pressed forward. Purple pasta, dark green leaves, pale slices of garlic. The Joker’s color palette.It wasn’t bad. A little soft (the pasta should not have cooked as long as it did), and the noodles did contain a trace of what I disliked so much about the wine. But I’m willing to give it another go. Jen and I have discovered a couple of $10 bottles that we like quite a bit. I’m willing to sacrifice a bottle for another try.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Wine Goddess

The Chopping Block had a tent sale a couple Sundays ago. I got wind of it through Facebook, and it sounded fun. There would be a bunch of items on sale, some samples from their Big Green Egg grill, and a bunch of wines at 30% off. Jen and I made plans to stop by.

They were receiving their new season’s worth of wines, picked out by the Wine Goddess, Diana Hamann. To clear room, they were marking down last season’s and pouring samples.

It would be our fourth wine tasting of the weekend. Friday night, we went to the South Loop Wine Cellar; Saturday, we spent early afternoon at the Binny’s in Lincoln Park and late afternoon at Fine Wine Brokers. But we didn’t buy anything at those three, partly because nothing really blew us away, and partly because we really didn’t need any wine. There was plenty at home to crack open.

We made our way to the back patio at the Chopping Block, and something like twenty different wines were spread out on the bar. Hamann chatted wildly with everyone who stopped by. She handpicks each wine they sell, so she had a story and an opinion about every bottle.

She caught site of us and asked what we’d like to sample. We asked if it was okay if we ran the gamut.

“Bless you,” she said.

She told us that she’d go easy on the pours, so we could pace ourselves. And she did, for the first two bottles. Then she splashed away, giving us the same amount she was pouring for everyone else.

Jen and I have a hard time dumping wine. Even if it’s something we don’t particularly like, pouring it out seems tragic. Sometimes I will make a show of holding my cup upside-down over the cuspidor, but usually there are a couple tiny drops, so little liquid that I have to shake the cup.

So, we got tipsier and tipsier, in the middle of the sweltering afternoon.

That may have accounted for how deeply we fell in love with every wine we tasted. So many of them jumped out at us. We began to make mental notes of the ones we would buy. Someone grabbed the last two bottles of a rosé we had our eyes on. Taking a cue from that experience, we began hoarding a few bottles of our own.

At some point, we noticed a sign on the bar that said we’d get a free Chopping Block wine class if we bought a case. Well. At that point, it became clear that the only responsible thing to do would be to buy twelve bottles.

I think there were only a couple of repeats. We slipped them all into a cardboard box (except for one fat bottle that wouldn’t fit between the partitions). We weren’t in a position to lug them home then and there, so Jen had to return a couple days later with her sister’s truck.

We literally ran out of room in the wine refrigerator. That has never happened before.

The wine class we selected was “The ‘Nose’ of Wine,” which met on September 3, a couple nights ago. Diana Hamann taught it. When Jen and I showed up, she recognized us.

So, we bought more wine than we intended, we helped them clear out old inventory, and we bought a second class to go with the free one so we could both attend.

I guess we showed them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How about a nice moo-lot/cow-bernet blend?

Canadian cattle enjoy red wine with their feed.

“It definitely changes their personalities. They moo a lot more with each other. They get really chatty,” she said.

Been there.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Was 1780 a good year?

Divers find what is thought to be the world's oldest drinkable champagne.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Here I Grigio Again

Whitesnake is coming out with a wine. A zinfandel.

Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate describes it as a "bodacious, cheeky little wine, filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness."

Wait, sorry—that’s Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale.

Look for it July 1.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2009 Albino Rocca Moscato d’Asti

I occasionally make hay about how much I dislike too much sweetness in my wines. Really, it’s just the overbearing sweetness you might get from a cheap merlot that tastes like cherry candy or something like that. Unwelcome sweetness, sweetness without context.

Jen and I tasted a Moscato d’Asti that was real sweet and real delicious. A 2009 bottled by the Italian producer Albino Rocca. Incredibly floral in aroma, easy drinking, lightly fizzy. The pourer had two or three Moscatos, each sweeter than the previous. This was the high end of the sweetness scale.

The Muscat grape may be the oldest grape variety to be domesticated, and there is evidence that wine from Muscat grapes may have been served at King Midas’s funeral feast. This is intriguing, not least of all because I thought King Midas was fictional.

This would be a fantastic dessert wine, or failing that, a great breakfast wine. I’m not sure how the idea got into our heads, but we opened up our bottle one Saturday morning with scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, and a few berries.

Heaven. The wine splashed coldly through the bacon grease and provided a bracing accompaniment to the fruit. Don’t tell Jen, but I thought it had a bouquet reminiscent of soap. Like, really good, fancy soap you’d encounter at an upscale Paris hotel.

We were prepared for a day of foggy tipsiness, but the tipsiness never came. We couldn’t figure out why we weren’t drunker than we were, having finished off a bottle first thing in the morning. Then we noticed: Alcohol 5% by volume.

Hell, you could give this to children.
Part of a complete breakfast.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Drinkin’ Square

Jen and I will be at this tonight. Lincoln Square plus Chopping Block plus wine, all for $5. If it’s anything like I hope, I’ll float home on a cloud of bliss.