Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mastering the Art of Wine Blogging

We seem to be moving a little faster into the fall weather than we were expecting. The nights are definitely getting cooler and we're not getting the endless stream of sunny days. So, we're having to take advantage of the al fresco dining opportunity when we can. Boo had to head off for a night shift at work, but Elzee joined us for a quick dinner before she and I headed off to see "Julie and Julia."

Earlier in the day, I was over in a part of town that I don't get to all that often. So, I felt obliged to drop into the Kits Wine Cellar. I know that the "No Buy Leash" is still to be in place but, you know, sometimes you just have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

Case in point, I don't think I remember ever having seen a Portugese sparkler before. How could I say "no" when it called out to me?

163. N.V. Luis Pato Vinho Espumente Bruto (Portugal)

Once again, I'm surprised with what a little "Google" after the fact can reveal. Turns out that Luis Pato is one of the most influential names in Portugese winemaking and his is one of the names most closely associated with the Barraida region. Called one of the most "punctilious" winemakers in the region by Jancis Robinson, his attention to detail appears to be working.

Known as an innovator, he is also one of the staunchest defenders of the Baga grape, one of the most original grapes in Barraida. In a country with a bewildering variety of indigenous grapes, the Baga is more known for producing tannic, fruitless wines - not exactly what I'd expect to be the grape of choice for a sparkling wine. This bubbly Baga is apparently made from grapes that are part of a green harvest - the removal of grapes that are not fully mature in order to hopefully increase the energy and intensity that the vines can impart to the remaining grapes. The grapes for this wine are green harvested later than usual in that they've already started to change colour and ripen but the characteristic tannins associated with the grape aren't fully developed.

I'll admit that, before we tasted it, I was a tad apprehensive about the type of wine and the fact that the label was somewhat reminiscent to me of the old, and god-awful, Baby Duck. The little duck head on this label could have been a harbinger of evil bubbles of the past. Not to worry though, apparently "Pato" means duck in Portugese, so Mr. Pato was simply playing with his name. Big sigh of relief.

I suppose the choice of a wine by a larger than life character goes hand-in-hand with the encounter we had planned with Julia Child for later in the evening.

164. 2002 Francois Villard Reflet (AOC Saint Joseph - France)

Since Julia was to be on the evening's menu (so to speak), we thought it best that our second wine be French. Once again, a little Google seems to have shown the serendipity of this choice. Francois Villard is an ex-chef. So, I'm sure he could tell us a story or two about Julia Child. Information about him and his wines wasn't quite as easy to find as it was about Luis Pato but a fellow blogger (at "Rhone Around the World") has written, "Francois Villard worked as a chef for a time and is himself a solid menu whose specialties are fricasse of independence, carpaccio of energy, gratin of boldness & saute of ambition. All liberally seasoned with intuition." Sounds appropriate for an evening on the Art of French Cooking.

Although M. Villard has only been making wine for 20 years, one of the better known wine merchants in town has referred to him as already among the elite of the Northern Rhone. Saint Joseph is a region, or appellation, in the Rhone where the only red grape that is allowed to be grown (and labelled as an appellation wine) is the Syrah. The region allows the addition of two white grapes to the wine up to a limit of 10%; however, this is a 100% Syrah wine.

It set us up for the evening's movie far better than our decidedly non-gourmet, non-French dinner menu.

Elzee and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I had to laugh out loud, nudge Elzee and give her a "Boy do I know that feeling" look when Amy Adams, as Julie, is questioning all the effort going into her blog and bemoaning the fact that she doubts anyone will ever read it.

Good thing this is an enjoyable activity because I don't see any books or movies being made in the near future.

PS. I'd be remiss in not pointing out that Boo and I actually grew the beans and purple potatoes on the dinner plate. Never grown potatoes before. I'm sure that Julia would have been supportive.

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