Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Best Wine Ever

"A succulent, deep and spicy blend of Granache and Syrah from the Southern Rhone Valley. A wine with new world texture and old world flavors - soft and slick on the palate with deep, foresty blackberry notes, bramble fruit and a finishing pepper kick."
This is the text of the handwritten note taped by bottles of 2006 Clos-du-Mont Olivet Montueil La Levade Cotes Du Rhone at Fine Wine Brokers in Lincoln Square. Notnits and I were browsing around after a tasting and discovered it. Pretty much every word on the little sheet (Foresty, Blackberry, Bramble, Pepper) declared You will love this. At around $15.00, it would have been silly to pass it by.

That night we picked up some chicken shawarma from Dawali down the street and ate on the back porch. Notnits opened up the Cotes du Rhone and we gave it a shot.

I think any one who eats Middle Eastern food on a regular basis (or knows anything about wine) would be horrified to learn that we paired this with the shawarma, but what we discovered delighted both of us.

The Clos-du-Mont was dark and plummy purple - it's the kind of liquid you can barely see light through. But it wasn't too thick when I swished it around in my mouth. All the notes were there, bramble, forest and pepper.

When we tasted it with the Shawarma, I was pleased to find that the tastes didn't clash at all. In fact, they paired very well; the nutmeg-or maybe cinnamon-enhanced the earthy overtones in the wine and the tahini and cucumbers pulled out some of the lighter minerality. (When I say minerality, I mean this: imagine licking a rock.)

I know very little about Old World vs. New World wines, except where they come from. My experience with both is difficult to describe. Drinking New World wines (
North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa), is very pleasurable and fun. A Chilean Syrah is great to drink with some red meat or barbeque. I find that I'm more interested in drinking the wines than I am ruminating over intricacies of tasting notes.

When I drink Old World wines (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria), my experience is far more three dimensional. I'm transported. These vines are old, and they announce their maturity with every sip, swirl or smell. I tend to launch right over the moon about a particular hint of leather or dry mesa. "WOW. It's like I'm in somebody's kitchen!" or "This tastes like a flowery meadow at dusk." Once the initial image explodes in my head, I take it apart and decipher what elements of the flavor bring flowers or simmering sauce to mind. Old World wines offer a depth and nuance that can go on for days.

In my childhood home, (up on top of Allen Mountain in the Appalachians of Western North Carolina), we had a playroom. This Playroom was damp, cavernous and suffered consistent water leakage. When it rained, the room was practically vaporous. It was mostly underground, with a small window looking out just at the earth-line into the woods behind our house. The Playroom was a creepy place; wet walls, the smell of mildew, Earth, and soaked bark. But we played there all the time.

I tasted the Playroom in the Mont Olivet. The old dank flavor, the fragrance of the rotting woods behind the house, the weird feelings of childhood fear and comfort, imagination. All this poured from the bottle in the chill of a late summer night, eating shawarma.

We've purchased it several times since and I can't recommend it enough. I will say that I'm not sure your experience will be as transcendent as mine. I'm positive of it - it's sort of unfair to assert that you will re-experience the magic of childhood when you drink this. So, on the short's a good wine (with a good price) that I happen to love.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wine Away Is Magic

-j-j- and I went to La Creperie recently, a little French place in Lakeview. We were in a bit of a hurry to catch a movie (Fantastic Mr. Fox) across the street, so we each ordered a glass of wine, and I waited at our table while she darted across the street to purchase our tickets.

While she was gone, the waiter arrived with two glasses of red. As he approached the table and brought my glass in for its landing, I had a brief thought flicker across my mind: What if he spills that on me? That thought was immediately dismissed: He is a professional waiter.

One second later, like a snapshot, I saw the glass tilted toward me, its contents a tiny vertical wall of crimson liquid. Well whaddaya know, I thought, and in an instant the entire glass was on my lap, soaking my jeans.

The kid was staggeringly apologetic, and he didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t want to be the Indignant Asshole Customer or make him feel worse than he already did. On the other hand, what the hell, man? I stifled my anger and frustration. How convincingly, I’m not sure.

-j-j- returned to find me stone-faced with a dishtowel on my crotch, and she quickly put together what had happened. I retreated to the restroom and sopped up what I could, then slipped the towel into the leg of my pants to form a barrier between me and my wet jeans.

All our wine was comped. I eventually settled down. The kid never stopped apologizing. But now I had to sit through the movie with wet pants and my worries about whether the jeans would ever be wearable again.

My mom gave me a bottle of Wine Away for Christmas several years ago, in the wake of a massive spill on a new pair of khakis I’d suffered earlier that year. For a long time, I had no need for it, so it sat untouched in the closet with my laundry detergent. Then some time later, I dropped a bottle of wine and the ensuing crash spattered a few drops on a sweatshirt. Cursing the whole time, I took the sweatshirt and the Wine Away to the Laundromat. With absolutely no optimism, I spritzed the potion on the stain.

Like something out of a movie, the wine stain vanished before my eyes, and all that remained was an acrid scent of burnt oranges.

While I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, my mind kept returning to my depleted stash of Wine Away. Would it work on denim? Was there a danger of letting the stain set for hours before using it? Did I have enough left for the size of the stain?

I got home and spritzed like my life depended on it. I had barely enough left to cover the wine stain, and that’s including when I unscrewed the cap and shook every last drop onto my jeans. The denim was dark and damp, so it was hard to tell for sure, but it looked like the stain was disappearing.

I washed in cold water and drip dried.


So I hereby throw my support and endorsement behind Wine Away red wine stain remover.