Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Vacation Needed

October 30, 2009
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So much travel recently for the paying job, and no time off since March. Really needed some vacation time. Don’t worry; I’m gathering some great stuff with the time off. Canned wine, boxed wine, paella, and hopefully the greatest upset in college football history. Don’t worry. We’ll see ya soon!


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An Unbelievable Meeting

October 23, 2009
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I never saw it coming. I thought my hair would grow back first. I believed that I could believe that it’s not butter. I was convinced; convicted even, to the prospect that David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar would team up for a folk music tour before this would happen.

But alas, I have been thunderstruck (sorry for mixing AC/DC and Van Halen references…razor’s wit hath eluded me tonight). An unprecedented collision has occurred. My two passions: wine and HVAC wholesale distribution, have come together in a chance meeting the likes of which even the kooky duo of Pat Morita and Jay Leno have never seen.

Confused? Me too. Wait, I’m not. Not confused about this, at least. Other stuff (how they get peanut butter and jelly together into one jar, the ‘Jonas Brothers’ phenomenon, etc.) still have me baffled. But that’s another post…okay probably not.
What I’m getting at is a recent post that Murphy-Goode winery’s tasting room recently was awarded LEED certification. LEED (or ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’) is a huge aspect of heating & air system design, and it’s a really good move for those who give a damn about this rock we call home.
Now, HVAC and mechanical contractors talk about LEED all the time. They- conversely- being a whiskey and “lite” beer bunch, rarely sniff into forays with wine. In fact, discussing wine with many of my customers would likely result in immediate ridicule, and perhaps kicks to the testicles. Fearing for said testicles, I’ve kept my mouth shut and conceded to the fact that my two mistresses must remain mutually-exclusive.
I tip my “Real Tree Mossy Oak Break-Up” distributor-branded cap to you, Murphy-Goode. You’ve done something I never imagined.
And so it toast you in a way only befitting of this union: … … okay, I don’t know how to write out a deer call in French.

Posted in LEED, thoughts, wine

Fall in North Georgia

October 22, 2009
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The weather was cold…really cold for mid October. But the campfire was warm, as were the bbq, beans, and cornbread. Of course, wine was plentiful, and the conversation and behind-the-scenes access from the owners and winemakers completed the day. Drinking room-temp, yeasty wine-to-be straight out of the fermenter has never been so fun!

Big thanks to Brent, Rob, Brad, Oliver, and all the folks at Montaluce who made us feel so welcome at the annual Fall Festival. Can’t think of many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in October (with all due respect, ‘Dawgs…)

Posted in food, georgia, montaluce, wine

When there’s no wine…

October 20, 2009
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There are a ton of great wine writers and bloggers out there. Not only are they putting out quality content with every post, but they’re doing it frequently- you know, like every day. Some entertaining, some profound, some educational. If you want to check some of them out, take a gander at my blogroll —-> (well it might be V- that’s a down arrow- then —->). Just look around. I’m tired of messing with all these arrows. Anyway, all these great rants, creative videos, artistic photographs, and intuitive tasting notes…damn, that must mean a LOT of wine is getting consumed, right?

So, I’ve always been curious: what are these folks doing on the nights that they AREN’T drinking wine? Surely, everyone’s not drinking a bottle of wine every night (I anxiously await the dissenting opinions and cries of “heresy” I surely just stirred), right? I frankly don’t know. Perhaps crafting a great wine blog requires not only a golden quill and a rapier’s wit, but also a parched throat, precision-tuned palate, ample gullet, and ironclad liver. Yeah, I agree. The best wine bloggers out there are sort of like low-level super heroes.
And while I may have all those (call it Irish temperance), many nights just don’t work. Early day at the office tomorrow, tons of meetings, and an evening full of activities. It’s pretty much the M.O. of a typical weeknight ’round these parts. And being one of those nights, I’m gonna stay away from the wine. Pairing with a peanut butter sandwich can be tricky anyway.
But, I can always dream about the next bottle. The anticipation of discovering something great. The excitement of learning something new; a previously-unknown scent, an intriguing new flavor, a wine from a completely undiscovered region. Most importantly, I dream about finding that next great gem to share with friends and family. Something delicious, affordable, and accessible…

Okay, maybe not that affordable and accessible. Can you believe Mad Dog’s up to $4.50 a bottle now?! Ooh la la, do I get some crocodile loafers with that “Peaches & Cream”??
Anyway, for the company’s sake, and for the virtue of moderation, no wine tonight. Be it the rule or the exception, I don’t know. But I have to hold on to the belief that- sometimes- even low-level superheroes need a night off.
So, with nothing to toast with, I’ll just say…Goodbye, Hasta Luego, Arrivederci, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, and Sayonara!

Find Your Stallion

October 18, 2009
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“What I’d like to have now is for all you high-rollin’, Bordeaux-drinkin’ sweathogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show all you female sommeliers the sexiest wine alive. Hit the music!”

Okay, it’s a stretch…not the “sexiest wine alive”, but I’ve lately been obsessed with making Ravishing Rick Rude references. I mean, let’s cut to the core here, folks. If you were a young lady in the eighties, what wouldn’t you love about The Ravishing One? The brash attitude, the nimble hips, the Hardy Wallace mustache, and the irresistable curly-fro mullet…truly, the late great Rick Rude was a stallion.

And how apropos to the subject at hand. Let it be known to all FCC operatives monitoring this site that I recently received a sample from Two Friends Imports of 2007 Bovin Vranec (pronounced vranetz), the “black wine of Macedonia”. In fact, “vranec” is Macedonian for “black stallion”. You see, this sloppy metaphor is finally coming together.

I opened it on Friday night, and the first taste pretty much bit my face off. Imagine a horse; a powerful, Mickey Rooney-trained black stallion, literally biting your face off. It was nothing like that. I just meant it was big and tannic, and the nose was very tight..couldn’t smell much. Relax. I still have my face. But my intact face and I decided to put it in a decanter for a couple hours and see what happened.

The nose opened up a little after a spell, but it was definitely old-world, meaning more subtle and not overpowering with fruit and alcohol. I got some fruits: cranberries, blueberries, and plums, but they were hiding behind terroir smells of herbs, charcoal, tar, and black and white pepper. Since I’ve been on an Aussie kick lately, it was a pleasant surprise to get a subtle European nose that didn’t get me drunk just by smelling it.

In the mouth, I got more cranberries, dark fruit, decent acidity, spice, and fistfuls of pepper, with a solid backbone of bitter tannin.

Baby Steps: Tannins are phenolic compounds found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, as well as in the oak barrels in which many wines are aged. The add bitterness to wine, as well as a tactile sensation that makes your mouth feel “fuzzy” or dry. Tannins are often purposely extracted from the grapes to add more structure to the wine, and they also can help wine age better. Some of the most tannic grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Nebbiolo, and Tannat.

The finish was pretty long, and the drying effect of the tannins made me want to wet my whistle again. I almost feel like this wine is a Syrah/Cabernet Franc/Merlot hybrid, but with better acidity. Hudson, who provided me the sample, said this was his “BBQ” wine, and he’d love to pair it with a whole roast lamb. I’d have to say I agree wholeheartedly.

So, if you’re looking for something you’ve probably never had, head out and try to find some Vranec. I think it’d be a nice wine to have as the weather gets colder. At the very least, it’d be a very easy way to bring that stallion into your life at last. I’d have to say that it beats the alternative:

Ah, l’amour…I’ll toast to that, and I’ll do it in Macedonian: Na Zdravje!

Suburban Wino: A Retrospecticus

October 16, 2009
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Sometimes, as much as I don’t feel like posting something, I just have to look back and see what the subject matter entails: food, drink, friends, good fun, great people, tailgating, incredible wine, leisure sports, and sizzling pork products.

Keeping all that in mind really puts the joy back into blogging when it seems like a chore. I want to thank all the incredible folks I’ve met on this recent journey, and I want to thank even more all the great friends who’ve shared the laughter and shenanigans over the past years. Mostly, though, cheers to my parents, siblings, and lovely wife, who always remind me that nothing’s worth taking too seriously.
Oh, and a big thanks to my buddy Dubs for coining the phrase “retrospecticus”…pure rhinestone, my friend!

To what’s it’s all about: Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, Kampai, and (new addition) Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Posted in food, friends, videos, wine

It’s "Drink Local Wine" Week! Get your butt to the mountains!

October 15, 2009
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I’ve heard it all before:

“California’s too far away!”

“Ugh, I can’t afford a plane ticket to Oregon!”

“The ‘Finger Lakes’? That’s too cold!”

“I don’t even drink. How did my quote end up on a wine blog. Am I getting paid for this?”

All fair quotes, all completely unsolicited, and more importantly- unpaid. Actually, I promised folks that I pay them the exact same that I get paid from the coffers. Suckers.

So, what was the question? I asked folks why they’re not visiting wine country this weekend. Yeah, folks in Atlanta. They squabbled and squawked; made excuses and reminded me that we’re “in the southeast. No wine around here, unless you like blackberry moonshine and don’t mind ‘squealing like a pig'” to get your trotters, er, hands on it. Ah, Deliverance. Thanks for honoring and portraying my beloved state in the same way The Sopranos represented New Jersey (or From Dusk ‘Til Dawn painted Mexico, for that matter).

But I digress. What these fine folks didn’t realize is that wine country- real wine country- is right in their backyards! As I’ve written several times in the past, Georgia is making some pretty serious wine. The Dahlonega Plateau offers cooling elevation (1800′ above sea level), the slopes and clay soils provide good drainage and rain barrier, and the dedicated vineyard managers and winemakers give every ounce of themselves to turn a difficult climate on its head- providing wines that I’m generally proud to drink outside of a paper bag. And we’re not talking muscadine, scuppernong, and any other vitis rotundifolia grapes that make better names for Hollywood infants than they do wine. They’re making real wine; vitis vinifera (basically, Latin for “wine grapes”), aka Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Touriga Nacional, and some interesting hybrids like Vidal/Seyval Blanc. Yet, while many of these wines express some interesting flavors (some would perhaps say “grassiness”) that you may not find in the true varietal character of “traditional” wine regions, I say what makes them atypical is what makes them unique. Ask a Frenchman, and he’d insist that’s what the hallowed “expression of terroir” is all about. Then, he might celebrate your astuteness with some goose fat and cigarettes.

So go try something unique. Go try something local. It’s good for your state’s economy. It helps some hardworking folks- simply (or insanely) following their passion- succeed. And, doggone it, a lot of times, the wine just tastes good. That’s been my experience with many Georgia wines. They’ve come a long way.

I really appreciate what has done, putting together this week to celebrate regional vino. In Georgia, here are a few wineries that you should check out. Go this weekend. When you taste these wines, you may just squeal…with delight:

Montaluce Winery and Estates
Three Sisters Vineyards
Blackstock Vineyards and Winery
Frogtown Cellars
Wolf Mountain Vineyards
Tiger Mountain Vineyards
Persimmon Creek
…and many more HERE

To the locals: Cheers, Sláinte, L’Chaim, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!

Riding MARTA with a gallon of chowder

October 14, 2009
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It must’ve weighed ten pounds. A heavy-duty plastic bag full of rich cream, potatoes, onions, and briny clams. Perched upon my lap while riding Atlanta’s public subway system, I fit in like sasquatch at an “Alopecia Foundation” meeting.

Believe it or not, this has something to do with wine.
It all goes back to Taste of Atlanta– namely, the Robert Mondavi: Discover Wine pavilion. I was given the opportunity to pour for them as they toured food festivals around the U.S. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Mondavi Private Selection wines, but the guy did put Napa Valley on the map, and it was at least an opportunity to taste, share my passion and knowledge of wine with others, and- well, make a few bucks. Hey, every man has a price.
Sure enough, I ended up pretty much just getting people drunk…few really cared about the grapes, the styles of wine, the regions, and the concept of terroir. I imagine to many people, the Mondavi: Discover Wine entrance might as well have just had a big marquee, screaming “FREE BOOZE”. Am I looking down of these folks? Nah. Like a moth to flame, I’d probably do the same thing.

However, for the handful of people who showed true interest in the wines, it was an incredibly rewarding experience. When frequently writing about wine, drinking wine, and discussing wine with other enthusiasts (well, nerds), one can really lose sight of what the average person knows about the magical beverage. This essentially educational role really brought me back to earth, and challenged me to talk about wine in “normal human” terms, thus bringing the mystique of wine back to earth as well…just where it should be. Wine is about fun, right? And when someone really “got it” and seemed excited, it felt great. Another fallen under the spell of the vine, perhaps. Glad I may have had a part in it. (oh, and thanks to Broderick at Savory Exposure for capturing my balding head in the most tasteful way possible…he’s really a hell of a photographer).
The chowder? Some chef from Legal Seafood traded it to me for four glasses of wine. No, he wasn’t interested in viticulture and viniculture, but he did have a crapload of clam chowder (darn good clam chowder, at that). Let’s face it: free food is pretty dang rewarding too…
…even if you have to walk around with it for a while.

Too good not to post…

October 9, 2009
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Just got back from a great Rioja tasting hosted by the Atlanta Wine School (join up the unique AWS Social network here) and Vibrant Rioja. Yet again, Michael Bryan and staff proved why they’re THE source for wine education in Atlanta.

So, I was planning on pontificating about the virtues of tempranillo, the wines, the winemaking…but then I came across this picture, and it was just too good to pass up. I think it sums up my beloved hobby pretty well:
But don’t worry, both you suburbanwinoites (it’s a stretch…I know). The wines of Spain are bringing crazy value. I promise to talk about them soon!
So, in the spirit of this evening, I simply say: Salud!

Eating Kennesaw’s finest Bait

October 7, 2009
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While I appreciate the proliferation of sushi joints in the ‘burbs, I’m sure most folks still consider raw fish no more than means to lure in live fish, which becomes raw fish, which becomes cooked fish, which becomes food, which becomes…anyway, sometimes the fish is simply mounted on the wall. Yes, I covered that up nicely.

And while many suburban sushi bars are dishing up plate after plate of California rolls, it’s cool when you find one that actually gives a damn about its sashimi, or the raw stuff (meaning the good stuff). One such place is Sake, a seemingly standard-issue Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi joint in a shopping center off a main road in Roswell, GA. The wife and I, through several visits, have had the pleasure of getting to know the owners- David and Sung- and have continually been impressed with the quality of sushi-grade seafood they bring into their restaurant (as evidenced by the sheer number of regulars who frequent this unassuming restaurant space). Well, their friendly approach to their customers and their dedication to good product has clearly worked, because they’ve opened a new place- Yellowtail Sushi & Bar– in nearby Kennesaw, GA. Being of unlimited financial means*, the wife and I decided to pay a visit.
*what a horrible, horrible lie. But, fortunately, our lack of funds ended up not killing us.
Upon entering the expected (now commonplace) “hip” setting, we quickly were seated and ordered the ultimate wine pairing for any sushi meal:

Ah, 22 oz. Sapporo bottle. Long time, no see, my fast friend. And the incredibly clean, dry taste of Japanese lager is SO good with food. I’ve tried to go the wine route with sushi before, but this is just a match made in heaven. Yeah, I know the FTC has required bloggers to disclose when free samples are given as to clarify paid endorsements, but I paid for this Sapporo, and I’ll still say it. I’ll shout it from a mountain. You’ve got it, Sapporo. You’ve got it.
Onto the food. What I liked about the menu was the large variety of goodies that I always lean toward: nasty bits, odd treats, and fried oreos (I’m saving those for later). What jumped out at me first was monkfish liver, which I rarely see on suburban sushi menus. From there, things just fell into place:
First Course: “Ankimo”, or monkfish liver pate…nice, fishy flavor (in a good way), sort of like bacon and canned tuna married together. A little dry, but a tasty start (it’s way less scary than the name might suggest to some).
Second Course: Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura plate. 3 shrimp, an onion ring (not quite “Varsity”, but solid), zucchini, sweet potato, and some sort of squash…maybe pumpkin or butternut. Want me to sit here and criticize fried food? Screw you, then.
Third Course…On the right: melt-in-your-everlovin’-mouth white tuna (Shiro Maguro) and some thinly-sliced yellowtail (Hamachi). Both served slightly cooler than room temperature, so the fat was SO silky. This sashimi- the fish and fish alone- is the ultimate in sushi enjoyment when done well. This was. On the left was a roll consisting of fried eel, avocado, cucumber, and some sauces. Pretty good, but overshadowed by the sashimi.
Fourth Course: Hotate (scallop) on the left and Ika (squid) on the right. Totally a textural experience. The scallops, which I’ve never had raw, had a nice flavor (similar to jellyfish…wow, that doesn’t help anyone), but the texture was pure velvet. The squid was incredibly chewy, but it “popped” in your mouth, and the sensation was delightful. Yeah, “delightful”…you come up with a better description. What? Huh? Still waiting. Okay, sorry. That was mean.
Fifth Course: Oh crap. That’s where the Uni (sea urchin roe) was. It just doesn’t last long when it gets in front of me. If you’ve never had it, or you think it sounds gross, GET OVER IT NOW! The texture is heavy cream, the flavors are so sweet and nutty and absolutely delicious. Possibly one of my favorite foods ever. Go get some Uni. I don’t care if I sound bossy. It’s that important.

In addition to all this goodness, we had another roll and some saba (mackerel), 4 giant beers, and we got out of there for under $100. No, that’s not reasonable for most Tuesday night dinners, but we were celebrating something special, so it was a steal for what we got. Case in point: it’s taken me about 3 hours to write this post, due to incredible food-coma. All I know if that I had some very fresh fish, some oddball items that are usually not in stock on a Tuesday at a standard suburban sushi place, and I felt we really got our money’s worth. Best of all- surrounded by all this “bait”- I didn’t have to relive my “Worst Angling” nightmares.

So, in the spirit of the evening, let’s leave it at this: Kampai!

Posted in food, sushi
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