Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Stuck on First Impressions

July 6, 2011
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When someone tells me he doesn’t like wine, I sort of get it. It’s simply a case of a bad introduction.

Not so oddly (bear with me), I credit George Harrison with this surprising measure of leniency/understanding. For anyone who has lived under a rock for the past 50 years (or, for the legal-drinking citizens reading this blog who were born in 1990… cripes!), Harrison was one of the original Beatles, an accomplished songwriter, an amazing solo artist, and a ridiculous guitarist. I mean, the guy wrote “Something”, dammit. And- of course- he put together All Things Must Pass, perhaps- in this guy’s humble opinion- one of the finest rock albums ever compiled in the history of popular music. George Harrison was masterful; an icon. Rock & Roll history must be re-written without him.
Alas, this was not my first impression of the “quiet one”.
In 1987, I was eight years old. My older brother- sort of a rock & roll appreciation savant– kept a healthy dose of MTV and VH1 on the tube at this point. Amidst the extraordinary cheese being pumped out by ailing acts like Billy Ocean and Mr. Mister, I distinctly remember a particularly-creepy fellow with an awful mullet and a penciled-in five o’clock shadow playing campy guitar riffs while some 80’s jerk-ass tried to get a prize out of one of those jerk-ass claw games at some jerk-ass arcade for some jerk-ass 80’s dream girl. I further recall that stupid song being played during elementary school physical education classes, usually involving me having to dance with girls. At eight years old. Not cool.

Alas, the artist was George Harrison, and the song was “Got My Mind Set On You”, a cover of a James Ray R&B tune from 1962. I don’t remember much more than I’ve already described, but one thing was (and still is) clear: it sucked. The day I found out Harrison was the lead guitarist for the Beatles, I was stunned at how one person could fall so far from grace*.
Unfortunately for this little tike, I harbored quite a lot of ill-will towards a great musician, based solely on a first-impression that painted a very atypical picture of the body of work. Such is- far too often- the case with wine.
Some people love Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay. That’s fine. More power to ’em. Yet, some find it to be vile, nay, unholy. Here’s the rub: I posit that rather often, folks’ first impressions of the noble Chardonnay grape is in the form of a bottle of TBC (or equivalent) at a backyard cookout, a tailgate, an engagement party. I further suggest that a good measure of these people think it does not taste very appealing. At that point, they make a broad-brushed declaration that Chardonnay is no good, and not for them (or even worse, wine in general).

Sadly, Two Buck Chuck is a widespread and easily-acquired ambassador of a grape that produces some of the most expressive and complex wines in the world. However, because of an unsavory introduction, a stigma has been created; one that can be difficult to shake for some. However, I can imagine how this situation could be completely reversed. What if a person’s first taste of Chardonnay was in the form of an incredible Puligny-Montrachet, for example? One chance encounter (unfortunately, leaning heavily towards the cheap stuff, based on availability and price) could mean the difference between a wine-hater and an instant oenophile.
Here’s my point: those who have made up your mind, open it again. Like in the world of music, even the same artist- hell, the same song- can be manifested in dozens, hundreds of styles and expressions. And if you still can’t make peace with Rock & Roll’s Chardonnay, there’s always Techno’s Riesling, Classical’s Pinot Noir, Reggae’s Roussanne, and Hip Hop’s Mourvèdre.
*for the record, I don’t hold George Harrison responsible for that crap. I blame Jeff Lynne, that over-producing sunuvabitch. Keep your ELO** away from my Beatles, you curly-headed freak.

**actually, I kinda like the Electric Light Orchestra.


Fighting the Man (and fun with Game)

August 2, 2010
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Over the weekend, in an effort to be simultaneously cheap and avoid heading to the local market- thus requiring exposure to the inner ring of Dante’s 7th concentric circle of Hell (that is to say, the weather outside in Georgia)- I foraged the freezer for meats. Finding venison was a pleasant surprise, as I have neither acquired a deer myself nor even been hunting in almost 2 years. My father-in-law, however, had been up to his antlers in deer meat, so a recent trip left us with a hearty supply of game.
Venison, being of the particularly lean persuasion, makes a poor burger on its own. However, I desired burgers, so braving the blast furnace (not solace in the fact that my truck’s A/C is mostly broken), I ventured across the street to the local butcher to collect some precious beef fat. Oddly, it comes in little frozen pellets there, but fat is fat.
Cubed venison, beef fat pellets, and a little ground beef chuck for good measure made for a pleasant blend of about 78% lean to 22% fat (not healthy, but tasty). I wanted to document the process for all to enjoy, and for whatever reason, I was hell-bent on a quick photo documentary set to Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “Shining Star”. Maybe I pictured Elaine Benes dancing with game burger in hand…I don’t know.
Usually, I upload to Youtube, with the occasional inconvenience of WMG-owned music being removed from the videos. Often, I just find another suitable track. However, hell-bent is hell-bent, and I longed to have “Shining Star” as the anthem for ground deer and odd pellets of fat.
So, here’s the Blogger video. I’m sure it’s lower quality, but- dammit- it’s honest to my artistic license. And I hope it helps sell EWF’s music, and WMG doesn’t get any of it. Straight to some sweet new horns for the brass section.

Posted in burgers, food, music, venison

St. Patrick’s Day Eve: The Anticipation-Equivalent of Christmas Eve to Charlatans and Drunken Buffoons aplenty (or "What to Drink on March 17")

March 16, 2010
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an excellent example of charlatans and/or drunken buffoons in their natural habitat

As soon as March 1st rolls up on my “Best of the Thundercats 16 month calendar”, I become obsessed with Irish music. Not just the traditional pub stuff- featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle, fife- but the incredible rock-influenced stuff, too: Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Waterboys, and downright punk rock like the Dropkick Murphys. Maybe it’s the red beard. The pale complexion that puts a glass of Vinho Verde (more on that later) to shame? Perhaps the (very Irish) notion that strong drink, hearty food, good music, storytelling, and merrymaking are quite near the apex of existence. Whatever the case come March, I’m just shot out of a bright green cannon with shamrock-shaped sparkles and a smoke cloud that smells faintly of cut potatoes and leprechaun musk.

Therefore, while I’m sure St. Paddy’s has gone the way of Cinco de Mayo (which has nothing to do with Mexican Independence), it’s also still an excellent excuse to celebrate. One of the “greatest” traditions in the States is the consumption of “green beer”. Nothing gets my taste buds more horny than the thought of flavorless, low-calorie lager infused with food coloring.*
*denotes sarcasm
Rather than bow to the sour and insipid regurgitation of a dirty tap, celebrate with something slightly more traditional:

Stout: a term used in England and Ireland to denote “strong” beer as far back as the 17th century, stout has come to generally mean a dark beer whose color is derived from the use of dark roasted malt in the brewing process. While there are Oatmeal Stouts, Imperial Stouts, Chocolate Stouts, Coffee Stouts, Milk Stouts, and even Oyster Stouts (I’m not ready for that one yet), the Dry Irish Stout is what many hoist around the world on St. Patrick’s Day. The most popular example is- of course- Guinness, but Murphy’s and Beamish also make good examples of Irish Stout. Many (especially the neon-green beer drinking crowd) are put off by the “heaviness” of a stout, and- yes- the name suggests as such. However, 12 ounces of Guinness Draught (the stuff you get out the tap or in the cans with the weird device in them) only have 4.0% alcohol by volume, 125 calories, and 10 carbs. Compare to your green Bud Light, which has 4.2% ABV, 95 calories, and 6.6 carbs (source: You could make up the difference with just one surly bar fight flurry of punches, and you’d have your wits about you by .2% alcohol, all while drinking something that has taste and pairs a hell of a lot better with your lamb stew or (not surprisingly) beef n’ Guinness pie.

Irish Whiskey: Somewhere along the line, the term whiskey came out of the old Gaelic phrase “uisce beatha”, which translates as “water of life”. So, next time Mom is giving you grief about how drinking is bad for you, simply explain that a bunch of old dead people referred to it as a necessity for living. “Then why are they dead?” Mom says. Dang, she always wins. Anyway, Irish Whiskey is an incredibly smooth and clean-drinking whiskey (or “whisky”, but not spelled that way in Ireland), due much to triple-distillation. Not as smoky as Scotch; not as sweet as Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey, but really darn good, and life-giving (disclaimer: Suburban Wino Industries makes no claims to be an authority on human health). Solid, easy-to-find examples include Bushmills, Jameson, and Tullamore Dew. The single-malt stuff is a little more elusive, but like scotch, it’s more complex, and may actually be the “water of life”.

Wine: Yes, I can already hear Kyle Broflovski’s mother screaming, “what, WHAT, WHAAAAAAAT?!!” Hang on. Bear with me. You can drink wine on St. Paddy’s, and this especially works if you’re hung up on the whole “green” thing.
Option 1: As mentioned earlier, Vinho Verde is a Portuguese still white wine that literally translates to “green wine”. While the name alludes to the wine’s freshness and youth (as opposed to the color, which is almost clear in many cases), hey, this is a wine blog, so I had to take a crack at it.
Option 2: Perhaps more half-baked than the Option 1 argument, but here it goes anyway. Look for organic wines, organically-farmed wines, or wines from sustainable or biodynamic vineyards (which don’t necessarily qualify as “certified organic”, but that’s another post). Anyhoo, the overused buzzword for good-for-the-environment is “green”, so…well, there you go. And while these wines aren’t required to say anything on the label, many probably do, as it is fashionable marketing these days. No longer total crap, there are many quality producers these days. Ask your local trusty wine shop for recommendations, and remind them that if you’re making a sacrifice for the environment, then you don’t need the dusty organic wine that they brought in on a whim and now can’t sell. Another option is to check out different wineries’ websites. They’ll be preaching all this stuff if they want to sell more.
So, surely you’re more enlightened and ready to take your March 17th irresponsibility to new heights (dare I say, responsible irresponsibility if going the sustainable/organic/biodynamic route). As for the bright green beer? The only things that should be that color are lime jello and antifreeze, and neither are safe for consumption.

Slowin’ Me Down

February 11, 2010
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I have posts to write. Wines to taste. Other blogs to read. Networking aplenty. Building my brand. Creating synergy. All those B.S. buzz words you heard in business school.
But I can’t do any of it. Why? Because of this stupid thing. What is it? It’s a didgeridoo. More specifically, it’s a beeswax mouthpiece for a didgeridoo.
Short story: I’m working on a post about some Aussie wines and Super Bowl foods with which they were paired. I figured, “what would make the post better than me jammin’ on the didge?” So, I pull it out of mothballs, only to realize I can’t play the stupid thing. At all. Hours of research later, I learn that the mouthpiece is too small. I’m not making a good seal. You can’t play didge with facial hair. I can’t circular-breathe (which is easy…I know it’s easy…thanks, Joe @!). All of this culminating in me going to the craft store and dropping $16 on a block of beeswax to make a “proper” mouthpiece. I thought I was just supposed to blow into the thing and make a cool sound.
Anyway, I’ve become obsessed with getting it right. I think that’s why I fell head-over-heels into this wine stuff. When my DNA gets a bug, I won’t stop- at anything- to get it done. My wife even woke me up in the middle of the night on Monday because she thought I was hyperventilating and having a seizure. Actually, I was having a dream where I figured out how to circular breathe and I was playing the didgeridoo like crazy. Even sleep can’t separate me from this damn thing!
So, everything seems to have been put on hold. I’ve got to get this down. Now if you’d excuse me, I have to go watch another ridiculous video like this one:

Posted in didgeridoo, music

Cabernet Sauvignon: the Bono of Grapes

January 19, 2010
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Experimenting with two loves of mine: wine and music (booze and rock n’ roll together at last…who knew?!).

Anyway, I’m hoping my first installment is entertaining. I’m pretty sure it will simultaneously delight and offend both U2 and Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. Believe me when I say that I did it all in the name of love

It’s Officially Crunch-Time

August 16, 2009
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Barring any further delays, I’m scheduled to take my Certified Specialist of Wine exam this Sunday (August 23). I think I’ve absorbed a good bit of the information, but it’s just a Rush Limbaugh-sized pile of information…geography, viticulture, chemistry, history, vinification, and on and on. Needless to say, my confidence is occasionally shaken when I think of what I need to know. Fortunately, the test is only 100 questions, all multiple-choice, and I can miss 25 of them. That being said, I will feel I’ve let myself down if I don’t ace it.

Usually, I need music to stave off any attention-deficit tendencies during monotonous activities: exercising, running painful reports and analyses at work, or studying. And while there’s been much talk about the effect of music on brain development and health, I wanted to find songs that would zone me out, while not interrupting my reading and retention of information.

So, here’s what I came up with…mostly instrumental, relaxing music: acoustic guitar, downbeat electronic music, and progressive rock. Although there are lots of calming songs with lyrics, I generally avoid them, as the words in the songs distract from the words I am reading. However, I gave a pass to Thom Yorke; the vocals in many Radiohead songs are so mellow, they seem like an instrument in themselves.
Give them a listen, and let me know what’s on your iPod when you’re trying concentrate. To me- much like wine- music is something that needs to be shared and enjoyed among friends.
To great music: Cheers, Sláinte, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!

Hall & Oates: Greatest Band EVER??

February 20, 2009
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I’m gonna let the picture do the talking.