Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Our little bundle of joy has arrived!

May 31, 2010
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Finally, after months of anticipation, our very special delivery has arrived! We’re so happy that she’s finally here, and we know that she’ll make a perfect addition to the family…

Alright, I suppose I could’ve titled this post “a textbook case of crying wolf”. No, the kid’s not here, but she’s very close (maybe this week). For that reason, it’s been a whirlwind the past couple weeks to get everything put together, creating a proper environment for our new arrival (and, as much as I feel we’ll never get the house quite right, a Monday marathon of “Hoarders” has set my mind at ease that we’re in better shape than we think).
Of course, as part of the welcome-wagon preparation, a proper bottle of Champagne has been deemed crucial to the celebration. While I talked a big game a while back about Jeroboams and such, the winner ended up being a magnum of Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Blue Top Champagne NV. Not necessarily my first choice, but I’m confident it will be darn good. Yeah, I know it’s a blue top for a girl, but forgive me if I refuse to bow to your gender stereotypes. I’m progressive, alright??
As far as going with the magnum over the double-magnum (aka “Jeroboam”), practicality forced my hand. Here’s the thought process:
1) Finding a double mag was damn near impossible (more on that later)
2) a 1.5 liter bottle will yield about 12 glasses of Champagne. Let’s be honest: do the wife and I really want more than 12 people in hospital room with our sleep-deprived shells of humanity?
3) referring to #2, I suppose we could drink more than one glass, but I feel like the hospital’s a bad place to be drunk, unless there’s half a beer bottle sticking out of my head and there are no newborn babies to speak of.

Now, on the issue of the brand (knowing I wanted a bigger bottle), I was really surprised at the limited offering in large formats. Sure, I found Veuve Clicquot (overrated?), Dom Perignon (too expensive. Overrated too?), and some lower-end bubbly. I saw a bottle of Bollinger in a magnum, but it was far-too “James Bond” for a little girl. In the end, I really have to tip my cap to Anthony at The Vineyard Wine Market in Atlanta. He worked with his distributors to give me some options, and we ultimately landed on the Heidsieck. I’m ultimately very pleased, and I’m confident the bottle will serve as a terrific celebratory gesture to our (and our daughter’s) big day.

"Lost" is like a bottle of wine. A bad one.

May 28, 2010
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I found this article in the NY Post about how Lost has been like a fine wine, always improving as it ages…

And, yes, after the series completion this past Sunday, a brief reprieve from all-things-baby, I think perhaps the writers did want the show to mimic the nuances of the bottled vine. How better to do this than leave so much of it up to interpretation?

Wine, indeed, the ultimate in subjectivity. The infinite expressions of colors, aromas, flavors, and textures can be as unique and individual as the people enjoying. Like a silver-tongued enthusiast coaxing descriptors and sensual imagery out of a glass of wine, so too has J.J. Abrams and the gang sprouted postpartum (sorry) questions and hypotheses:

Is the Island the source of good and evil?

The alternate universe: is it a purgatory created by the characters’ existence on the Island?

Is the smoke monster/Locke the devil, or just a manifestation of evil?

What is the significance of the Dharma Initiative?

Who is Eloise Hawking?

There are hundreds of answers to these questions, all based upon the opinions of those evaluating the body of work. As with a wine: one’s perception of sweetness may be construed as dry or off-dry to another palate. Or, Lost’s setting is a biblical reference to an individual, while it’s purely a matter of science-fiction to another.

Alas, the conversation and good-natured debate over a bottle of wine nevertheless converges upon a clear and satisfying payoff: sensual pleasure and the warm and relaxing afterglow of alcohol. Lost, on the other hand, has strung the viewer along with inticing mysteries and myriad questions, like the cryptic label of a rare and ancient bottle from a Parisian cellar. Along comes the final episode; the payoff; the kiss of booze to lull us into a deep and rewarding rest after years of anticipation, conversation, and speculation:

The show, as it turns out, is a irreconcilably corked bottle of ’47 Château Cheval Blanc. As if sealed without a shred of care, and stored for years atop a running washing machine in a sauna, the writers copped out. Lazy. Pure laziness. And don’t dare tell me there’s brilliance in leaving the story open-ended. We paid big money for Lost. We invested countless hours of time, attention, and energy praising its brilliance. We laid it down in the cellar for six seasons, waiting for it to mature and develop, anticipating the culmination of our investment: pondering and analysis (which the show has done), and a delicious and satisfying experience, and maybe a little buzz (fail). Even a bad bottle of wine can do both of those things. Lost, however, is an empty bottle. Forget Cheval Blanc metaphor earlier.
So ABC and Abrams, when you release that pile of crap called “Season 6” on DVD, include a bottle of wine in the packaging. If you can’t tie up the loose ends, at least get us too drunk to care.


May 17, 2010
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Moving the site over to WordPress: going very slowly. Elderly Florida driver slow.

Why? Well, I haven’t been able to focus on it so I can work to get the house clean, all outstanding projects completed, nursery built out (check!), and pretty much make sure all the ducks are in a row for our new roommate, aka “the kid”.
Understandably, the wife has kept me plied with honey-do lists. It’s an instinct called “nesting”, and- unfortunately- allowing the other half flights of fancy in the worlds of blogging and drinking wine don’t fall under said instinct. Hey, I’m happy to do everything I can, but it makes for a stale webpage.
So, that’s what’s going on. Not trying to make excuses; just wanted to let everyone know I haven’t gone Amish or anything. The past couple weeks haven’t 100% been a showcase of my subpar craftsmanship. I’ve gotten away from it a bit, and there’s lots of content in the queue. Rather than elaborate, a lazy pictorial will suffice:

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Under Construction

May 10, 2010
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Per all the great feedback last week, I’m in the process of moving everything over to WordPress, hopefully with a white background (and I like using wordpress better anyway).

In the meantime, I need to focus on that, rather than writing (this feeling may change, but for now, it’s about the transition). So, I figured I’d put up an “Under Construction” image. Then, I decided a picture of Voltron would be cooler.

You Got Surveyed

May 7, 2010
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There will be no sweet hip-hop dance moves here. And there will be no actual “serving”. How could I possibly attempt to serve my audience? Being served is so humiliating. Will I serve you pancakes or maybe a Capri-Sun if you come by my house? You bet. But I’m not gonna drop the tightest of science upon your unsuspecting broke a$$ on the dance floor. That’s just not the kind of serving that goes on ’round these parts.

However, I will survey you. No this is not a lame attempt at a “comment grab”. I’m not lobbying for AdSense to up my earnings from $0.02 a fiscal quarter to $0.03 a fiscal quarter. I just genuinely want to know something (though that extra cent could sure come in handy at the ol’ General Store). Anyway, I’ve heard a few grumblings about the white font on the black background. I thought that was the way to do things, and- apparently- there is a graphic design and presentation professional who does need to get a proper serving out there. I’ve just been taught that a black background pushes lighter font towards the eye, and a white background swallows up darker font. Perhaps it’s malarky. I don’t know.
So, I’m asking you. I need the feedback, because I don’t want to have to reformat this site, but I’ll do if if you want me to. Remember: I’d serve you pancakes, no questions asked. I would certainly also do what is required to make the site more enjoyable. Hit me back, kids!

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Joe Versus the Movie Pairings, part 2

May 5, 2010
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…and so it continues. Completing the challenge posted on the Suburban Wino facebook page by a friend (see part 1 HERE). Trying to pair some wines with some of the 80’s finest films. Cue your Europe…it’s the Final Countdown:

Top Gun: Château Pétrus. Quite possibly, year-after-year, the most expensive wine in the world. Nestled in the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux, France, this tiny producer cranks out- at most- around 2500 cases per year. I’ve seen recent vintages priced at a barrel-roll-above the-hard-deck, nosebleed-inducing pricetag of $1200+. Obviously, someone out there thinks this is the real Top Gun. Interestingly, it’s made primarily out of Merlot, as most wines in the Pomerol AOC are. Often thought to be the wingman of Cabernet Sauvignon, it takes the Top Gun trophy this time. “You’re still dangerous, Merlot…you can be my wingman any time.”

“Bullshit, Cabernet Sauvignon. You can be mine.”

Amadeus: Grüner Veltliner. Celebrate Austria’s most brilliant composer with Austria’s most notable grape. Those with much-more-refined palates than I seem to laud the brilliance of these minerally white wines, especially their food-friendliness. I haven’t drank a multitude of them, but- like Antonio Salieri- I jealously desire to possess the palates of those enological Mozarts who know GrüVee’s symphonic charms. That being said, some of the better ones I’ve had come from a producer called Wolfgang Vineyards, if you really want to take this pairing thing too seriously.

The Naked Gun: For some reason, all I can think about is O.J. Simpson’s performance in this movie. Drink a bottle of Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner” in effigy, and remember the good times… 2,000 yards with the Buffalo Bills, and the one-man Comedy of Errors that was Nordberg.

Rambo: First Blood Part II: Chalone Vineyards was the closest-sounding thing I came up with on a feverish search to find the non-existent “Stallone Vineyards”. Or, something from Paso Robles’ Sylvester Winery. Drink alone.

Troop Beverly Hills: Like Shelley Long’s intrepid vow to sell 2000 boxes of Wilderness Girls’ cookies (to the chagrin of sinister district leader Velda Plendor), take on the equally-daunting challenge of drinking 2000 boxes of wine. Or was it 1000? I can’t even being to put into words how much I don’t care.

Beverly Hills Cop 2: Because nothing says “huge in the 80’s, but completely washed up now” like White Zinfandel, synthesized pop music, and Eddie Murphy’s career.

The Empire Strikes Back: Dammit. The now-defunct “Skywalker Ranch” wines would have been a total softball right here. However, the force is strong with this one, and I must imagine, if there was to be a wine made on the Ice planet Hoth, it would without a doubt be an Ice Wine, or “Eiswein” in Wookie (okay, that’s German. But I know some Germanic people who look like Wookies). A delicious nectar made when grapes (usually Riesling) are left on the vine very late into the season, until they freeze. The majority of the water in the grapes is removed as ice, and what’s left is a sweet, concentrated (but balanced) dessert wine that will take you to Cloud Nine, or at least Cloud City.

Gandhi: Vinho Verde. This light, crisp, and very pale white wine (the “verde” refers to its youth, not a green color) from Portugal pretty much looks the part of water, a.k.a. the lone staple of a hunger strike. Fighting the good fight for peace is darn admirable, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Hey, I don’t recall anyone calling it a “cocktail strike”, okay?

The Karate Kid: Yeah, we all love Daniel-san. And lovable Mr. Miyagi could certainly help make a case for sake on this one. But let’s be honest: we all wanted to be part of Cobra Kai Dojo. So, if you desire the juice in your glass to “strike like a cobra”, you’ve gotta reach for a wine from Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills AVA. Actually named for the shape of the hills, rather than a proliferation of poisonous serpents, this sub-AVA of the Yakima Valley AVA brings some serious Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, and many more. Indeed, Washington wine is crazy-good, and it’s not afraid to go up against California’s finest. Sweep the leg, Washington. You gotta problem with that?
What a fun challenge. Brought me back a bit to my days of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” mastery. I hope some more challenges are posed, and I really hope some folks drink these wines with the movies suggested.
I’ve tried to think of a way to wrap this one up cleverly. Staring at the screen is no longer an option. All the creativity was used up on the movies. So…hmmm. Bye?

Joe Versus the Movie Pairings, part 1

May 2, 2010
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While wine pairings are- to many consumers- a point of substantial anxiety, for others, they’re a creative and engaging exercise. Pulling together the food and the drink that so perfectly complement each other is a rush, sparking a “eureka!” moment that begs to be repeated…
But does the challenge of the perfect pairing become addictive? Have folks gone too far? I’ve seen wines paired with everything, from breakfast to shoes. I used to think that pairing wines with the music you’re listen to while imbibing was a cool idea, until I realized finding a wine/music pairing is about as rare as finding a Hall & Oates song on a random iPod. I think I heard a comedian once say that iPods probably come preloaded with at least one Hall & Oates hit. I’m starting to think this wasn’t a joke. Anyway, this concept is allegedly so overblown that it’s caught the ire of the magnificent Hosemaster, officially relegating it to “stay away” status, for fear of a lampooning.
However, pairing with a smattering of bad 80’s movies is something I’ve yet to see, and something that I feel must be done. Not only because I think it’s got entertainment value, but also because a participant on the Facebook opus solicited the challenge. The original plan was to pair one red and one white with each, but I feel there’s a unique style that defines each of these films. So, donning my Hypercolor t-shirt and best pair of acid-washed, tight-rolled jeans, I attempt part 1 of 2 (because I got a list of too many movies):

Roadhouse: when things get out of control at the Double Deuce and Dalton’s not around, you’re only hope to survive is to smash a bottle over someone’s head. Go with a sparkling Blanc de Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay, “Blanc de Blancs” means “white from whites”, meaning a white wine from white grapes. More critical to the situation, though, is that a Champagne or sparkling bottle is substantially thicker than a still wine bottle so it can hold the 6 atmospheres of pressure built up within. This extra-thick glass might hold up, allowing for multiple head smashings. Furthermore, the wine held inside the bottle is very nice. And it’s important to always be nice.

RoboCop: Cabernet Sauvignon. This authoritative grape is a cross of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc (yes, a red grape and a white grape combined to make a more powerful red grape…makes about as much sense as combining man with machine). Highly respected and often feared by those with soft palates; yet this grape can produce wines that are incredibly powerful, but also display finesse and precision. Unfortunately, some Cabernet Sauvignons can command incredibly high prices, so the odds of them being affordable in futuristic Detroit are highly unlikely.

Sixteen Candles: Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. What else would you drink when 16?

Joe versus the Volcano: Sierra Foothills AVA Zinfandel. As many parts of Amador and Calveras Counties in California rate as “Zone 5” on the Winkler Scale (a way of measuring heat for the purpose of growing grapes), many of the grapes get very ripe, producing lots of sugar, which is converted into alcohol. Zinfandel, also notorious for ripening unevenly, is often left on the vine until the slowest grapes hit peak ripeness, and the early ones have pretty much turned to raisins. This- in turn- presents more sugar for the yeast to metabolize, producing higher alcohol levels as well. Many Zinfandels from California’s hotter growing regions have alcohol levels of over 16% printed on the labels (with state law allowing a varience of 1% at these high percentages…meaning wines with potentially 17%+). But why all this talk about ripeness, fermentation, and high alcohol levels? Because you’re gonna want to knock yourself out as quickly as possibly while watching this crap movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: German Riesling. Many are bottled with residual sugar present, so- as this has not been converted to alcohol during fermentation- the ABV tends to be lower, often around 8%. You’ll be able to keep your wits about you longer and not be lulled to sleep. However, the ripping acidity of the Riesling grape may feel like Freddy’s clawed hand across your tongue.

The Little Mermaid: if you’re looking for a wine to pair with Disney cartoons… #justsayin

The Breakfast Club: A brain. And an athlete. And a basketcase. A princess. And a criminal. No grape fits this description better than the enigmatic Chardonnay. A brain, capable of beautiful and thought-provoking expression, particularly the wines of Burgundy. An athlete, globetrotting the world as one of the top grapes covering acreage under vine. A basketcase, taking on multiple personalities depending on climate, region, oak regime, malolactic fermentation, battonage, and/or sparkling production. A princess, gaining the admiration of perhaps more white-wine lovers than any other grape. And, a criminal, sometimes committing unspeakable atrocities when bottled in its cheapest and most manipulated forms. Sincerely, The Breakfast Club.

To be continued…