Monday, April 30, 2012

Coming SOON!

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Hill Country Wine and Music Festival at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. While I was there, I spoke with the folks at Sandstone Cellars (in Mason), Caprock (Lubbock), and Duchman (Driftwood). This week, I will talk a bit about their wines and the neat insight they provided me. I also got a chance to stop by Hilmy Cellars and try their Persephone. In the next week or so, I plan to write that up.

And this week has a lot in store. Saturday is the Derby party at out Bending Branch (Comfort), Lavender Fest at Becker, and the Hye Society release at William-Chris. There is a lot in store, so please check back.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

15. A Little Bit of Home

15. A Little Bit of Home
Each drop is revered:
it encapsulates heaven,
earth and man as one.

Each French wine I chance to taste
shares notes with the wines from home.

Some of my recent French wine experiences.
Wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts the world over are always praising French wines. There, of course, is good reason for this. Many of the great vineyards and wineries have spent a century -- often more -- crafting their elixir. The mixture of experience, wisdom, and devotion has made France the leader in top wines. So, to continue my wine education, I took to drinking the French wines I could get. Now, I have not had any Premier and Grand Crus -- totally out of my price range -- but I sought wineries linked to the greats. And I learned many lessons from this. The first was a surprise: Texas wines are rather similar to French wines.

Thanks to Drops of God -- I can't help but keep mentioning this fine work -- I learned a little about French terrior. This main ingredient to wine -- the earth mentioned in the Li Po post -- is crucial to the wine's flavor. And lo and behold, Texas and French terrior is not so different, especially the  Texas Hill Country. It seems both are a mix of mineral heavy soils. There is sandy soil in some areas, and not to far away, the soil is laced with clay. In fact, after a chat with Pedernales Cellars' General Manager Jim Brown, I learned that is common in their vineyard near the winery. One block is a very clay based soil -- it retains water well -- and the next block is sandy -- not as good for keeping the water. France is no different. In fact, they have similar deposits of clay, sand, and other minerals. The effect of this is simple; the terrior, the very earth itself is the same.

With a quick taste, this mineral similarity is apparent. As I have noted in earlier posts, I tend to notice a mineral note in Texas wines. It is stronger in some rather than others -- obviously based on the exact location of the vine. The mineral is always there though. I, personally, enjoy it. It adds complexity to the other flavors and can even help blend less congruent notes. As I have taken a trip through French wines as of late, especially Bordeaux, I have noted the same mineral hint. Yes, like Texas it varies from vineyard to vineyard, and so the mineral taste differs, but it is there. Just a few moments concentrating is enough to notate the similarity.

Before I come to a conclusion, I must make known the inspiration here. To take a break from French wines, I opened a bottle of Becker Merlot. It got me thinking. Then, a week or so later, I enjoyed their Claret. At that point the conclusion was clear: fans of each should be drinking both. Those who praise and love French wines should take a chance on Texas wines. What they love is present here as well. And of course, we Texas snobs (and yes, we do exist) should return the favor. And hopefully, the world will start to look at our slice of heaven and enjoy its fruits as much as we do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

14. Liquid Inspiration

14. Liquid Inspiration

Courage is said to not come in a glass,
which begs to mind, what about inspiration?
Can indulgence,
a sip,
spark the mind
to speak beyond
what is routine?

Cannot a letter or a word bring
to life new visions that plumb the depths
of every experienced emotion? What
about an act --
a kiss,
a touch, a mere smile?
Can these not makes us swell
with more than what we see
before us?

To look into a glass, to see
a jewel:
garnet, ruby,
a dark as night amethyst,
a lemony citrine.
To taste heaven -- the sun
and the air -- and stone and fruit
of the earth on the tip,
middle, and back
of the tongue.
How can a heart not cry out
that it is inspired?

Li Po and a few thoughts on wine

If heaven loved not the wine,
A Wine Star would not be in heaven;
If earth loved not the wine,
The Wine Spring would not be on the earth.
--Li Po

Wine reaches beyond the boundaries of one country or one region, and it is treasured wherever one goes. In this poem, Li Po expresses his love for wine. But more importantly, the wine is loved by heaven and earth – two words that came up in the third volume of Drops of God (a story focused on the search for the twelve apostles of wine in order to discover the drops of god). The key to the wine is the unification of three elements – heaven, earth, and man. This concept of heaven and earth is crucial to wine, to the very essence of the greatest of wines – as the twelve apostles and the drops of god are to be the paramount of wine – crosses all groups, all ages, and all beliefs. But it is in this idea of heaven, earth, and man that wine finds meaning.

The first step is to look at heaven. In Li Po’s poem, he argues that heaven must love wine, and this is clearly seen in the idea that there is a wine star. But what does that say about wine? Heaven is often related to yang – it is the breath of life. So in heaven, among the greatest essences of our souls, it is the spark of life. But it also, as yang suggests, is the breath of life itself. Connecting this to the idea expanded in Drops of God, heaven breathes life into the wine, is the spark that gives the wine life. Of course, in the manga, heaven is the rain and the sun, the life breathing elements of growing and life.

Next, there is the earth. The earth treasures wine by providing it a spring. The yin of the earth is the material nature of existence. Though commonly associated with death, yin is also a female characteristic, and as the woman nurtures, so does the earth. As the earth nurtures, wine is born. The terrior holds the wine and nourishes it through the soil. So the earth plays a fascinating role as well.

But this doesn’t take into account the star or the spring; interesting choices for the poem. I am, honestly, struggling with the star. Stars are important elements to any culture, as they are both light within a darkened sky – a sense of hope in the darkest hour – but they are also guides – the North Star falls into this category. So, with that idea, the wine star must be what we can grasp to for hope. Li Po and his comrades were quite obsessed with wine. They would have found it a treasure, and treasure in this world is hope of a greater existence beyond the material. I would suppose that the star, as hope, provides a joy beyond joys. I wonder, then, if he is thinking of intoxication. Mild intoxication from wine can come easy and is often punctuated by a lighter state. This is not pure drunkenness; this is a state of relaxation that may come with controlled indulgence. But this then leads to the guide. The wine guides us to the joy and hope. This may be Li Po’s star.

As for Li Po’s spring, that is interesting. The spring is often a force of yang, as the water flowing from the earth is more life giving than nurturing. Springs, without knowledge of their true origins, seem to spring from the earth and so give life. This goes against the yin image of earth. At the same time, without water there is no continued existence, referring back to the idea of nurturing. Even more so, many cultures, especially Eastern ones, would relate the spring water to that of cleanliness, especially that of purification. As we know, springs usually are the result of water exiting an aquifer, a naturally occurring formation that often cleans water. So, both scientifically and metaphorically, the spring purifies, so I wonder if wine does as well.

This can easily all be brought together. Wine, like our very souls, is complicated in that it is yin and yang. It is life giving, a guide to hope, but it also nurturing and purifying. Wine guides us through our material existence; it relieves us from the world and its troubles by washing them away in a pure stream. Once we are purified, we can find the joy beyond the material world; w find joy, the light in the darkness. Wine is a beautiful treasure. It is heaven and it is earth. But it is when it comes in contact with man, than it reaches its full potential and promise. As Drops of God proclaims, the greatest of wines are a culmination of heaven, earth, and man, so we are given leave to enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


It seems the April Challenge squashed my creativity. I felt trapped and struggled to write, so I'm throwing in the towel.

With the weight lifted, I feel free and ideas are flowing. Sean & I have been indulging in a French wine binge -- to really see what the fuss is about. It had given me ideas that will find voice very soon. I also finished Drops of God 3.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

13. Ikkyu

13. Ikkyu

the indulgent monk proselytizes: know, experience, enjoy all the world
with my vice in hand, I toast to you

     nobody understands why we do what we do
     this cup of sake does

Ikkyu was a Buddhist abbot in fifteenth century Japan. Despite his profession as a religious man, he indulged in the world around him. From his point of view, how could you understand life, and so the teachings of Buddha, if you did not know the all of it. He also accepted the Buddhist belief that mortality was fleeting and that the world we lived within was meaningless in the greater scheme. So  in order to be the best monk and person he could be, he accepted his vices and felt obliged to indulge in them. His most notable vice was sex. In his senior years, he took a young (20 or so year old) wife who was blind. In his last years, he devoted much of his poetry to her, especially poems about making love to her. But we wrote about all of his vices.

Now most of us wouldn't think of sake as wine, but it is rice wine. So for Ikkyu, sake is his wine. And as he wrote, only the wine understands what we do. There is something visceral and natural about this concept. Since the wine understands us, we can use it as a gateway to understand ourselves: we know ourselves when we give into such indulgences, experience and take joy in them. It is in this act that we may know ourselves. Of course, we know because it gets to the root of who we are. Serious wine drinkers and enthusiasts know this. We know it is a big part of who we are. Since starting this blog, I have had to come to that revelation.  In fact, as my husband and I talked on Sunday this week, I realized that wine is a part of me. It has come to define a part of my life. 

So, thanks to Ikkyu and his encouragement to enjoy the things in life that many will tell us to avoid. I have learned about myself. What I have learned is that I love wine. Kompai Ikkyu-senesei.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

12. Hot

12. Hot
Slips in smooth, a touch
warms my tongue, slides down my throat,
heating my stomach.

Spreading, the heat moves through me, 
settles: my body relaxes

Hot wines are wines that have high alcohol content and leave a warm sensation in the mouth and other areas. One hot wine, that comes to mind, was a Reserve Barbera Becker released in 2009/2010. This wine had the highest alcohol content of any wine they had ever produced. From the first taste, I was blown away.

Hot wines can be recognized right away. As the sip fills the mouth, a hint of warmth becomes apparent. From my experience, the warmth is a pleasant one. It isn't hot per se, but a softening in the mouth.

The hot wines have a lasting effect. Towards the back of the mouth and down the throat, they stay warm. Again, it doesn't burn, but rather, it is a soothing warmth. At this point, the sensation begins to radiate out.

As the wine reaches and builds in the stomach, the sensation from early starts to grow. The wine's warmth slowly spreads out. I notice it most on my muscles. As the sensation spreads, especially from the stomach region, my muscles loosen and relax, like applying a heating pad. It is a pleasant and relaxing sensation.

Now, as the warm weather closes in, hot wines aren't quite as pleasant; I know I may turn to one when I've spent too long in a building with a super powerful AC. With that in mind, these are GREAT winter wines. When I first tried to the Barbera, it was in the winter or early spring, so it fit wonderfully. However, I most enjoyed it when I used it to celebrate buying my first house.

Monday, April 9, 2012

11. Grapes

11. Grapes

Frozen green grapes
provide a refreshing treat
on a warn summer afternoon.

Black grapes, large, full globes
seem decadent when eaten
for a simple snack.

Red grapes, full of potential,
belong to wine, slowly fermenting
and aging into a tempting beverage.

At the heart of this blog is the grape, so it seemed only just to make this the G entry. I have always been a grape lover. Grape candy, grape soda, grape juice, you name it, I love it. And that desire to eat and drink them has hardly every faded.

When I was young, my family went through a tough economic time. There was little money to spare, so I often had to make due. One trick was dealing with what to eat in the summer. Since my mother wouldn't buy much in the way of cold snacks -- she only bought enough for one serving per day, and I wanted more due to the heat and playing outside -- I had to find refreshment elsewhere. One of those tricks she taught me was freezing green grapes. She would clean them and then store them in the freezer. Several hours later, we would have a round, cold ball that was ready to be eaten in a variety of ways. We could suck on it like a piece of candy, slowly letting it melt. As a child, though, I would nibble at it, breaking away a small piece at a time and crunching on the ice crystals held by the skin.

When I got older, I started eating other types of grapes -- during my youth I would only eat green grapes. My husband kept trying to make me eat others, red and black specifically. Though reds were tasty, there was something about black grapes. These grapes, especially when they are large and ripe, with a tight skin over the flesh, they are incredible. I found they are my favorite to just eat.

As for the red grape, it is a prized item these days. Since I am a big red wine fan, these grapes are very important.  Without them, I couldn't enjoy a glass of wine. In fact, I will forever think of grape stomping. The feel of the grapes squishing between my toes and coating the bottom of my foot. Then there is the sticky residue sticking to my feet, ankles, and just up my legs. It is how I see grapes before they are wine.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

10. Fruity

10. Fruit

You asked why I love strawberries best?
Maybe it is the sugary taste,

the one that wakes me up in a way
no other taste can. But

it isn't sugar per se, it is
that sugar with its complexity. Sweetness

that bespeaks of more
than a shock to my system. It carries

the the soil: the dark, rich earth
that nurtured it. It is a taste

of the sun's loving gaze, and the rain
that washed it clean and soaked

the skin to bursting. It's sweetness
so akin to love.

Wines are often called fruity, especially if the first taste resembles that of some fruit. That is the reason I drink wine, instead of, say, beer or hard liquors. I have always been a fruit lover. When I was growing up, I would choose the fruit soda -- grape was my absolutely favorite. If my mom made me choose between berries or candy for a snack, I would choose the berries. I even remember one grocery trip when I used all my money to buy strawberries; I must have seemed odd to the kids clutching their chocolate bars. I am a fruit lover, and then, ergo, a wine lover.

But, I HATE sweet wines. It seems crazy, but sweet wines -- unless they are dessert wines -- just make me go "yick." And, as the Drops of God post suggests, to each his own; if you like your wines sweet, please enjoy them for me. It is for that reason that I arrived late to wine. My dad has a penchant for sweet whites. They were like a strange, uncomfortable liquid syrup to me, so I didn't drink. I needed something more than sugar.

That is why I like berries. They are not "just" sweet; there is always something more to them. I think that is why I like dry reds. A good red, to me, is a Malbec. A good Malbec is sweet, but the sweet is softened and molded by the dry. It reminds me of a peak strawberry. It is a lush taste, one that, like a good wine, is complex. It has the sweet, but it isn't the primary component. There is an earthiness to a good strawberry -- I always find that when I go to Texas' Poteet Strawberry Festival. There is a juiciness that isn't sweet, a juiciness more like watermelon. A dry red has that sweetness, but the tannins create depth.

A sweet wine has its place. I thoroughly enjoy sweet wines like Muscat Canelli -- a sweet that tends towards the citrus (another fruit that is balanced due to citric acid's sourness). But I will happily drink a dry red so I can experience the sweetness in a more controlled way. So, bring on the fruit.

Friday, April 6, 2012

9. Enchante

9. Enchante
I was pleased to meet you.
Deep garnet swelled in my glass,
vivid aromas.

Smell: fresh berries ripe, oozing
Taste: earthy summer sweetness.

Enchante is one of William+Chris's most interesting blends. And yes, I know I have already touted their Malbec, but this is a different essence of a one-of-a-kind winery. This is a winery that stakes its name on blends: Artist, Hunter, etc. They create harmony in their wines. They bring together their best fruits and craft art in liquid form. Enchante encapsulates this.

This is a wine that calls to the drinker with just the nose. The powerful smell of berries wafts forward. But it isn't just berries, but very ripe berries. It reminds of last May when I went to pick strawberries and peaches at Marburger Orchard. The strawberries were nearing the end of their season; they were ripe, and you could smell it. And so could the bees. By the time we got to the peaches, the late Spring sun -- more like a summer sun for most people -- was already baring down on us. The split peaches around us oozed and sent their scent everywhere. When I drink the wine, I think of this.

As for the taste, it reminds me of the winery and vineyard in Hye. There is this unpretentious nature to it, natural, earthy. It is a solid flavor. In fact, after being out in their fields, it definitely makes me think of the soil -- like most Texas soils, very heavy with minerals. But it tastes like the smell. I wonder what it is like in a vineyard just before or during harvesting. The wine must taste like that smells.

Enchante is William+Chris; it is their heart and soul. They are happy to share this wine with people and use it to help new friends get to know them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

8. Drops of God

8. Drops of God
Are they soft and gold?
Are they deep, lush garnet gems?
Are they strawberry?

I can taste heaven -- love, care --
heart of devoted winemakers.

Drops of God is an inspirational manga (Japanese comic) by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto. This lesson in wine, through a great story, has touched people all over the world. In Korea, it lead to a large increase in win drinking, as well as in China and Taiwan. This long running manga has had a TV show as well. And I can honestly say, I was inspired as well; this blog is proof of that.

Besides being a wine primer, this work encourages a love of wine and a personal connection.By the second volume, the main characters are out trying to find excellent French wines at a reasonable price, and they succeeded. The lesson here is taste; even inexpensive wines can be incredible.

But the main lesson learned is simple: wine must be experienced. When a person drinks wine, he/she must allow the wine to speak to them. In the first volume, the lead finds himself drinking and taking notice for the first time. What does he see? Queen. It is a rendition of rock legends Queen in their 70's heyday, circa "Bohemian Rhapsody." As a Queen fan, I was hooked. Mostly, it let me learn what drinking wine is all about. Good wines have more than flavors, they have emotional resonance.

Though I have a hard time just letting myself go -- I have gotten too technical in my poems -- when I do, the wine has new meaning. So far, as this blog is concerned, that is the Malbec post. But as I wait for volume 3 -- released last week to book stores and this week to comic book stores (I like supporting my local businesses), I will have to keep reminding myself to just love and experience the wine.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

7. Cabernet

7. Cabernet
Hard packed earth, sun, water:
swaddled the roots, left bare the vine.
I wait for Cabernet.

Cabernet Sauvignon was my entry point into wine. I randomly tried Becker Vineyard's Iconoclast -- a very reasonable buy and a good wine -- and started my journey. For me, it is the essence of my wine journey because now I am trying my own hand at growing, and it is Cabernet.

My little Cabernet vine is teaching an important rule about wine: patience. I have to wait to see what it will do. First, we waited to see if it was still alive after planting. That week and a half was a long one, one with regular check-ups. I so wanted to touch the plant and help it, but I knew, if I did, I could do more harm than good.

Now, my little vine is growing. My two main branches have leaves. Also I see where I may have more very soon. I am excited at this point as the plant grows. I know this will fade as it just keeps doing what it is doing. And at this stage, though I may get more leaves and great size, there will be no big changes for awhile. The buds breaking was the last major change I'll see for awhile.

From what I learned, it will be at least a year, maybe two, before I have grapes. And even if I have them next Fall (this Fall is right out), they will be of little use. When they come, I will reach my next milestone. Then, I'll have to wait until the first usable round grows.

As I said, I just have to wait. I can water and keep the surface of the soil clean. At some point, it will need some help staying up, but it will be a lot of watching and not a lot of doing. This isn't so different from other aspects of wine. I have slowly had to learn, slowly had to explore, before I could come to this place. There were times I wanted to rush, but I couldn't. The same goes for drinking big reds like Cabernet. These wines must open up; they must have time to breathe. I often try to decrease that time with an aerator, but sometimes, I still just have to wait. And, as I keep learning, when I wait, I am rewarded.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

6. Bold

6. Bold
Dark, deep tannins grasp,
seeping in, complex tones sway,
desired red wine.

Slowly, my heart, take it in.
Let the heat slide down, satisfied.

I've recently read that bold isn't much of a wine term; it is mainly used in marketing. As such, it isn't a clear definition. But there is often a generally accepted idea, that bold wines are heavy with tannins. This gives some freedom in the definition, as is the case with so many abstracts. 

For me, bold does have the heavy tannin, but it is a wine with strong flavors, often many not quite melding but acting in harmony of one another.I usually associate the deeper berry flavors -- blackberry especially -- and other darker fruits -- currants -- with this. I also would say many bold wines have a hint of chocolate, as well as either a smoky, leathery, or oaky taste. And it doesn't take a genius to know that these flavors do no blend. Instead, they work alongside one another. Often one moves into another, but even more likely, they work as a two flavors in one. Fruit and chocolate naturally do this. When the darker fruits are put into dark chocolate, no one flavor takes over. At times, one is more powerful than the rest. One the edges, they are both there, both noticeable but match like related related colors. For me, I think of my chocolate covered blackberries -- where the chocolate is thick, you taste chocolate; towards the center, it is all blackberry; but where the two meet, it is chocolate and blackberry, separate, equal, and yet, together.

I also often connect bold wines warmth; they are wines that seem to be warm in the mouth and on its way down the throat. Very bold wines are warming on the palate, they almost smother it, like a rich sauce or melted chocolate. As they slide down the throat, they stay warm, like a warm drink on a cold day. Once they accumulate in the stomach, they have a spreading warmth. They are delightful, but not always best for hot summer days.

In the end, my definition does share similarities with most people's, and so both definitions would definitely accept the Cabernet's --my next post by the way -- as bold wines. But I would go beyond that and allow some medium bodied, and not just full bodied, reds into this category. One person I read would place Malbecs here. Honestly, I would place most Texas Malbecs, as the soil adds the deeper complexities more reminiscent of Cabs; however, smoother Malbecs don't always match up. The Malbecs that are more fruit forward and  very smooth aren't bold; they don't have the more visceral effect of a bold wine. One wine I saw missing from most lists, that I would put near the top, is Tempranillo. These wines are always bold; their spicy nature makes them powerful. And, their rich tannins create a depth of flavor like that of a Cab. 

So what is bold? I think bold is what you make it. It will have the distinct flavor of tannins, but is that enough? What you find excites you when you drink a tannin rich red is bold for you. So, be bold.

Monday, April 2, 2012

5. Albariño

5. Albariño
Crisp sunshine, soft sweet
Peaches dance on my palate
Refreshing, spring’s wine

This first poem of the April challenge is inspired by Pedernales Cellars' Albariño. This wine was a welcome refresher yesterday, as the day quickly reached the upper eighties and had over 70% humidity; it felt like summer had already come. The Albariño eased the day and cooled me. Now, on first glance, the reason for this may be the chilled temperature of the wine. The real reason is the taste of this wine.

A good Albariño is a crisp wine. The wine is like sweet Granny Smith apples -- the ones that are crisp from the hint of sourness. It is a light feel. I would equate it to having Granny Smith's in a fresh, green salad. It is also like honeydew melons. These lighter melons are not overpoweringly sweet or watery, much like this wine. On a warm day, this is refreshing.

Albariño also holds a strong fruity sweetness. This wine isn't the berry sweet of reds, but of softer fruits like peaches and apricots. It resembles these fruits earlier in their season, lightly sweet and soft. These fruits, in late Spring, are light. They sweeten but do not seem syrupy. This is what Albariño captures. It also captures a hint of citrus -- Muscat Cannelli's are strong citrus flavors, like a good orange. Albariño is more like lime.

Combining all these fruits -- green apples, peaches, apricots, and limes -- is a refreshment, but it also creates a nice color. There is a light golden color that has hints of early Spring green in the shimmer. It is a beautiful wine to look at. The appearance is as cool as the taste.

As for Pedernales's take, it is a clearly born in Texas the Hill Country. Soft peaches are a powerful component of this wine, much like the landscape in and around Stonewall and Fredericksburg. Right now, there are light blossoms dancing in the sun. Soon, we will see ripe, golden globes. For now, I can have Albariño: fresh peaches, cool and sweet on a hot Texas afternoon.

April Challenge

April is a busy month. In the case of blogs, there is a challenge: write 26 blogs with topics going from A to Z. For poetry, this is the month of months, national poetry month. I have decided to combine the two. There is absolutely no way I could post 26 blogs in one month, but I can put together 26 poems, especially if I continue my trend of working with tanka and haiku, or similar forms. When time allows, I will also add more detailed blogs.

So until April 30, keep an eye out for 26 poems and as many blogs as I can muster.