Articles from June 2010

List w/o Commentary: two days of indulgent eats/drinks

Tuesday breakfast:

  • Us: French roast coffee (on stove top percolator)

Tuesday lunch:

  • Him: 6 inch turkey and Swiss cheese on Italian bread with light mayo (at Subway)
  • Her: salad leftover from night before with Krugermann’s pickles (at Her house)

Tuesday night dinner at Canelé:

  • Us: Chateau Cadillac, Bordeaux Superieur 2006
  • Us: L. Preston, Red Table Wine, 2006
  • Us: “Friends Cook at Canelé” with guest chefs Samantha Peale and Michelle Huneven, featuring bleeding beets and soft lettuce salad; skirt steak, white beans, greens, and roasted corn; boysenberry pie with cinnamon ice cream

Tuesday night nightcap:

  • Us: Cactus cooler, Skyy vodka, and lime cocktails (at Her house)

Wednesday breakfast:

  • Us: French roast coffee (on stove top percolator)

Wednesday afternoon lunch at Little Next Door

  • Us: Chateau Haut-Rian, Bordeaux Blanc 2009
  • Us: Mediterranean Spread: baby artichoke dip, romesco, hummus, tatziki, greens, pita
  • Him: Croque Madame
  • Her: Smoked chicken salad sandwich

Wednesday evening aperitif:

Wednesday dinner:

  • tbd

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GA to CA

It’s true, I haven’t been an active participant in Swirl Smell Slurp for the past week. I had to go to Atlanta to oversee the beginning of construction of a skatepark I designed. But to be fair, while I wasn’t overseeing I was doing plenty of R&D (research & drinking) for this here wine blog.

The park is being built in the underground storage space of a closed down Niketown in Phipps Plaza Mall. One afternoon as I was leaving the mall to go back to my hotel I noticed (to my delight) a wine bar / wine store called The Grape. I really didn’t have high expectations for a wine bar located in a mall, but I really wanted a glass of Sauvignon Blanc after I walked in the godawful heat to my hotel.

I went into the store section first and was quite impressed with their selection. I couldn’t decide what I wanted and the woman working the store told me to go to the bar and have a couple of tastes of this and that. There were two very cute and knowledgeable young women working the bar and when they noticed that I at least kind of knew what I was talking about, started making suggestion after suggestion and pouring me taste after taste. Once again I was delighted.

I had no plans on buying a bottle of red but when I tasted the Juan Gil Monastrell 2007, I had to buy a bottle. Really great and only $13. My favorite white they plied me with was a Chateau Bonnet Sauvignon Blanc 2008, and I bought a bottle of that too. I really enjoyed both bottles and they hit the spot after working all day in a hot basement inhaling sawdust.


It’s kind of a business expense, right?

When I returned to LA, I had 2 days to CNC mill and build a bar I designed for the City Listening event, part of Dwell Magazine’s design week (or whatever it’s called). I had to work at breakneck to get it finished, but I did and I am very pleased with the outcome. It also counts as R&D, I mean, there was wine on the bar at the party.

For more photos, go here. I have some ideas about making this into a bar and a wine rack. Want a custom one for your home or restaurant / bar? Email me.

Putting an “I” in Team

On Friday afternoon He was in some dusty downtown Los Angeles building putting together a bar He had designed for a party the next day. I hadn’t seen Him in nearly a week, because He had just gotten back into town from Atlanta, where He was overseeing construction of a skate park He designed. Sure, all this work is a good thing, but it means that I have been steering (drinking) the Swirl Smell Slurp ship solo. For what feels like weeks now my boozing and blogging partner has been M.I.A.

Back to Friday: out of what seemed like nowhere our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and inbox became chock-full of congratulatory messages. What? Much to our surprise and complete delight, We had won “Best New Wine Blog Award” at the Wine Blogger’s Conference 2010 in Walla Walla, Washington. I sent Him a text and then went straight to the frig to open a celebratory bottle of Champagne. I raised my glass and bellowed out: “Cheers to Us!” But wait, where was He? I had a gulp, and started over: “Cheers to me!”

Since I’ve been doing all the work around here, I have temporarily taken Him out of the picture (with my favorite pink Sharpie) and demoted Him to wine steward/cleaner of my dirty glasses/ cellar rat.

We I am thrilled to accept this award. We I am truly honored (and a bit baffled). We I appreciate the tremendous support of our readers.

Our My hearty congratulations to all the winners. What amazing company We I am in.

Rewriting the Review

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United Slurps of America: Illinois

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? We’re doing just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. The next stop on Our tasting tour: Illinois

For nearly four months now We’ve been tasting the states, making friends along the way. A true delight of our Slurpin’ America project has been our collaboration with regional wineries and wine-lovers. For each state We’ve tasted (twelve so far, whew) We’ve teamed up with local bloggers to get their take on their state’s wine. It’s been refreshing (and insightful) for Us to add new voices to our He said/She said blog.

While the collaboration has been a delight, the logistics for coordinating USA has taken a lot more work and time than We initially anticipated. We naively thought We would taste a different state each week. Hmm…No.

Just when We were in a panic about which state would be next, We were contacted by Mike and Evelyn of He Sipped/She Sipped, a blog hosted by ChicagoNow, a division of the Chicago Tribune. Their blog is just a few weeks old, but already they’ve posted dozens of reviews of local shops and restaurants, wines from all over the world, books, and more. As they say “anything wine-related from the Loire to the Loop.”  So We had our co-bloggers, We just needed a winery. Lynfred was an easy candidate, being the state’s oldest, having produced wines since the 1970′s. We contacted the winery and they graciously offered to send samples across the nation to Us in California and to their neighbors Mike and Evelyn, 30 miles away.

This past Sunday, just as We were about to pop open the bottles, He got a call for a last-moment trip to Atlanta to supervise the construction of a skate park He designed. Ah, skateboarding: another one of His favorite things. Or maybe His very favorite thing. After Her, of course. Because He is working away in Hotlanta, there will be no “He said,” just a “She said” in this USA post, making it even more fortuitous that Mike and Evelyn are offering their opinions. (Or…at least He says He is working. His Swirl Smell Slurp Facebook update paints a different story. Hmm.) And here are the reviews:

Seyval Blanc, Correl Vineyards, Lynfred Winery 2009 (sample, $25)

She said: Clear, light yellow. Aromatic and perfumey nose with aromas of tropical fruit and ripe apples. On the palate the wine is floral but with an underlying acidity. Minerals, aromatic herbs, and limes in the finish, reminding me of a limey gin and tonic. I enjoy the arc of richness in the nose to the austerity of the finish. Zingy, refreshing–a nice summertime sipping wine. If it was half the price I’d stock up (and give it a higher rating). 

Sipped: I don’t think I’ve ever had a French-American hybrid before, so I really didn’t know what to think going into this. This wine definitely exceeded my expectations – even if those expectations were pretty low. The Seyval Blanc ia a light to medium yellow color in the glass. The nose is pretty light and perfumy with a hint of apple and banana in the background. On the palate, this wine is smooth and enjoyable. It has flavors of sweet ripe fruit, but the wine was actually pretty dry. Lynfred lists it as a semi-dry wine, but at only 0.7% residual sugar; it’s not very sweet – and that’s a good thing.

Sipped: On the nose I get fruit, mostly bananas. In my mouth, it’s light and smooth but subtle. This wine is easy to drink; I’d call it a picnic white. I can imagine it with cheese and bread and a warm day. It’s good but not great, and I’m not sure I’d pay $25 for it.

rating: Have a glass

12 down, 38 to go…

Summary:
Sipped: As Chicago bloggers, Lynfred winery and its wines took us by surprise. We have to admit we didn’t have high expectations. Most wine in the area is fruit wine and over-the-top sweet, which is not our thing; however, these wines were drinkable and then some. We’ve never been to Lynfred, but we’re making a phone call this week—and we’ll be there soon. The samples proved that it’s worth a trip out there—to Roselle, IL, which is 30 miles outside of our home in Chicago. Chicagoans typically think of that area, just south of Schaumburg, as suburban hell, and nothing but a needed-trip-to-IEKA can get us city folk out there. (Kind of like Burbank, for you LA folk; She Sips used to live in Sherman Oaks.) But we’re going to check out Lynfred, because we deem the wine surprisingly worth it.

She said: A big “cheers” to Lynfred Winery and their Marketing Director, Christina Anderson-Heller. These are good, generous people. And they like to interact with fellow wine-lovers: friend them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, you’ll enjoy it. Although Lynfred sent both Us and He Sipped/She Sipped several bottles of wine, just one was made from grapes grown in Illinois. We wanted to stay to true to the “tasting local” concept of the project, so We are going to reserve the other bottles for a future post.

Also, thanks to our USA: Iowa co-blogger Dan, The Iowa Wino, for the picture of the 2008 Seyval Blanc accompanying the review. (See, We’re making friends all across the nation.)

And finally, a clink of our glasses to Evelyn and Mike. It’s been great to virtually “meet” another wine blogging couple. We love Chicago and know We’ll be visiting. We look forward to tasting the town with you. In the meantime, We’ll be following your adventures on the blog.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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Rewriting the Review

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(im)print

In the early 90′s I made the transition from roommate living to my very first “just me” apartment in a rather sketchy stretch of Oak Street in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. Despite (or maybe because of) the dangerous neighborhood, I loved it. But I quickly found that not having anyone to split the bills with was tough. In an effort to scrape together some cash, I decided to sell my printer. It had come with my (original) Macintosh, so I figured it was almost like free money.

I put an ad in the SF Chronicle and within a couple of days received a call from a guy who was interested in the printer. He asked all the basic questions and then wondered if there was any negotiating on the price. I hesitated and he asked, “Do you like wine?”

Immediately I thought, oh great, this pervy guy is trying to make a move on me.

He elaborated, “I make wine in Sonoma– the printer is for the winery. Would you consider doing a trade?” He elaborated on the quality of the wine (I had no clue about wine at the time–big jugs from Food 4 Less were my standard fake-id purchase.) I hemmed and hawed and then he suggested a bottles/cash combo. Hmm…booze and cash? Sure.

A couple of days later a sparkly eyed, hippie looking dude showed up at my door. I was nervous about giving a man I had never met my address (I was, after all a young woman living alone in the big city), but when he arrived I was immediately put at ease. He was incredibly nice and in his arms he held a big basket full of wine, and an envelope with my name on it. The transaction was pleasant and easy. We both felt as though we had gotten a deal. Before he carried off my old printer, he wished me well and expressed concern over my living arrangements. “You be safe here in this neighborhood.”

And that is the story of how an under-aged college student traded her crappy used printer to the millionaire wine mogul Joel Peterson of Ravenswood.

(Today Ravenswood has announced its 2nd Annual Ravenswood Tattoo “Coming Out” Party at their tasting room in Sonoma on July 17. Those who attend with the winery’s beautiful and bold logo will drink for free…for life.)

A Grüner and A Groaner

If you follow Us on Facebook and/or Twitter, you probably realize that We are fervent Lakers fans. That said, last night was tough. Post-game We went on a tirade (“Trade everyone!” “Phil is fired!”), but are feeling better today. (Just please, please, please win game 6 when you come back home.)

Thankfully, we had some good food and wine to make the evening a little more bearable. Just prior to tip-off, we had a couple of burgers and a salad delivered from Bird’s, a popular local eatery in Her ‘hood. We ordered via the internet on Eat 24 Hours, which, if you are not familiar, is a service that aggregates the restaurants that deliver to your address, allows you to view the menu, place your order and process your payment. And then, voila!, food arrives at the door.

The Bird’s delivery guy is an awesome young Rockabilly dude with tons of tattoos. He told Us that Bird’s was packed with both World Cuppers and Lakers fans–a complete madhouse. “The soccer/basketball fans are different from each other, but what they have in common is they REALLY like to drink.” Ah, the comfort of Her lovely home. The burgers were excellent, the game was crap. On to the wine review…

Grüner Veltliner, “Charming,” Laurenz V 2006, Austria (sample, $27)

She said: How many reviews of this wine begin with “Charming indeed…”? It just totally works. The wine is pale greenish-yellow. On the nose I get ripe apples, a little bit of ginger, some honey. These are rich and spicy aromas, but on the palate the wine is not overly cloying or full–rather it has a terrific acidic kick that keeps it in balance. Zingy, a hint of citrus, and a long and silky finish. Really great with that chopped salad and coleslaw. Maybe not the best burger wine, but a delight nonetheless. Perfect summer wine.

He said: A pretty, bright green in color (which may have been the first curse. Should We have been drinking something purple or yellow?) Unlike every Laker not named Kobe, this wine opens up bright, lively and ready to play, with a nose of citrus, minerals and a little apple. In contrast to the Lakers’ defense, this Grüner is harmonious and in sync with delicious citrus flavors and great acidity that is abundant from start to finish. Ron Artest could learn a thing or two from the long easy finish of this wine (make your effing free throws in the clutch, Ron-Ron).  Don’t pass on this wine, it’s a slam dunk. OK, that was an admittedly ridiculous review, this wine is very, very good.

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Rewriting the review

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United Slurps of America: Ohio

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? We’re doing just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. It’s our 11th stop on the tasting tour: Hello, Ohio.

Social networking has become key to the coordination of this project (and, surprisingly, it takes a lot of coordination). One state leads to another via recommendations and insights from Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and reactions to previous posts on the Swirl blog. Beyond tasting local wine and in some cases grapes We’ve never heard of (Chambourcin? St Croix? La Crscent?) We’ve also “virtually” become friends with an enthusiastic bunch of fellow wine adventurers.

After slurping Kentucky with Kevin Keith (of the terrific Under the Grape Tree blog) he suggested we contact Michelle of wine-girl.net in his neighboring state Ohio. We looked up Michelle’s blog “My Wine Education,” and were delighted with its insights into local wineries, tasty cocktail recipes, and reviews of all things liquor: bottles, books, and shops. We quickly sent her an email: Want to slurp Ohio with us?

Michelle jumped on board the project and came with a list of recommended wineries: Harmony Hills Vineyards, Kinkead Ridge, Firelands Winery, and St Joseph’s Winery. Next step: contacting the wineries. Nancy Bentley of Kinkead Ridge promptly replied to our inquiry: “What a fun idea! There are people in Ohio that will tell you we are making the best wine (vinifera) in the state…Sadly, all our wine is currently sold out!” Too bad. But great for them…it’s wonderful to hear that small, regional wineries are thriving.

We received no response from Firelands or St. Joseph’s and were getting nervous, but then word came from Bill Skvarla of Harmony Hill. Bill was equally enthusiastic about USA and offered to ship Us some wine. The timing was also propitious as the winery was reopening for the season over Memorial Day weekend and he was pretty sure Michelle and her partner Kevin were going to come by. The timing delayed our post a couple of weeks, but the wait was worth it. (We have come to realize that Our original tagline of “Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We’ll do just that…” has become unrealistic. We’re still going to taste every state, but it’s going to take longer than 50 weeks.)

Here are our collective reviews:


Photograph of Harmony Hill Vineyards, taken from a hot air balloon showing vineyard, winery, and entrance to their cave.

“Aria,” Seyval Blanc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2009 (sample, $12)

She said: Very pale and translucent salmon pink. On the nose: some wood, ripe pear, fruit punch-like. The flavor reminds me of old fashioned fruit salad–the kind that comes in a can with heavy syrup that my hippie mother would never let me eat. It is not as cloying as the canned fruit and has a nice acidity to keep the cloying factor in check. Honey dew melon, tropical. Serve ice cold on a hot day.

He said: Pinkish / Salmon colored. The nose is a cross between a rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc with subtle oak hints of Chardonnay. Not overly sweet (which I suppose is the reason it’s called semi-sweet). Nice acid to counterbalance the sweetness. Maybe a little cloying, but totally nice. Super chilled in the backyard on a hot, sunny afternoon; that’s when I imagine this wine to be perfect.

wine-girl said: First off, this wine is best served very chilled. Harmony Hill is great at making wines that should be enjoyed on their patio or yours on a hot summer day. Once this is chilled down, this is an overall enjoyable wine. There’s a little too much oak for me, but at the same time, if I even see an oak tree, that’s too much oak. I’m probably a poor judge. That said, I sipped it during a party on my patio and it was a huge hit.

“Concerto,” Vidal Blanc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2008 (sample, $11)

She said: Very pale, almost clear yellow. The nose is not appealing: vegetal, funky, over-cooked green beans. It’s hard to get past. But in the mouth the wine is really lovely: crisp, light, slightly effervescent. It’s a semi-sweet wine, but like the “Aria,” is not cloying. Candy-like fruit flavors, Juicy Fruit gum, and applesauce. Too bad about the funk on the nose, but a delightful wine. I’m will to stop myself from sniffing before I slurp. Which I want to do a lot of.

He said: Gold-yellow corn silk in color. Ugh, weird nose. Vegetal, green beans, funky and gross. It makes me not want to taste this (and We discussed if perhaps the bottle was bad). But, wow, no hint of the nose in the mouth. In the mouth it’s bright and lively. Sweet with just-right acidity. Apples. The only problem is when I smell it while sipping. If the nose wasn’t so strange, this would be my favorite of the bunch.

wine-girl said: Without a doubt, this is currently my favorite HH wine. I know we left with this as a sample, but we also left with a bottle we paid for. We love this. It’s sweet, but not that candy-sweet that a lot of French-American hybrids can have. This is, in our opinion, perhaps the perfect hot-day-patio-wine.  It’s full of peaches and pears, and tends to bring on a relaxed happy feeling no matter how hot the afternoon.

“Rubato,” Chambourcin, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2008 (sample, $14)

She said: Very purpley red and opaque. On the nose reminds me of Cabernet Franc–has a hint of vegetables. Also some oak, but more than anything else: cherries. The wine is tart, like unripe plums, some earthiness, baking spices. But mostly tart, dark cherries. The acid is nice and I imagine it would be a great food wine.

He said: Purpley. Nice nose. I could smell it as soon as it was poured. Black cherry and dark fruit abound. It’s a little light in the mouth. Some spice, all black cherry. Long smooth finish. I’ve never had this grape. I just read that Karen mentioned duck (or Kevin did roundaboutly as to not offend) and now I want duck confit with this. Maybe we should go to Canelé tonight. I like this wine.
wine-girl said: Ah, chambourciraminette and vidal. This sets them apart, surprisingly, from many of the local wineries that are focusing (and in some cases struggling) with growing vinifera. If you like French-American hybrids, you’ll enjoy Harmony Hill. I admit we’re partial to this wine – we helped harvest the grapes. It’s got nice spice and black pepper on the mid-palate with a lot of black cherry. The Rubato has a light finish but that seems pretty typical for the chambourcins in the Kentucky / Ohio/ Indiana tri-state region. Kevin thinks this wine would be nice with grilled dark poultry. (I think he’s trying to say “duck” without offending me.)

“Rhapsody,” Cabernet Franc, Ohio River Valley, Harmony Hill Vineyards 2006 (sample, $14)

She said: Ruby, garnet color. On the nose: some mild wood, spices. Tart in the mouth, clean finish. Not a lot of fruit anywhere; the wine seems to be mostly about structure. Maybe elderberry? Can’t quite place it. That said, very enjoyable in its texture and acidity. Another good food wine.

He said: Red-maroon, totally different looking from the Chambourcin. Berries on the nose. This one is also light in the mouth. Nice, totally drinkable but hard for me to decipher. Cherries and berries. The bottle lists “black currant” and I realize that is another flavor I can’t really recall. An enjoyable bottle.

wine-girl said: This is a cabernet franc that really surprised me. I’m not really a fan of cab franc, but I enjoy this one. It’s got a lot of big fruit up front, almost assaulting you. The finish has a lot of sour (maybe bitter?) cherry. Happily, there is very little greenness, which makes this an approachable cab franc. It has light tannins and is really drinkable right now. We tend to take out time getting to wines, and I wouldn’t worry about the drinkability of this wine if it took us a year to get to it.

11 down, 39 to go…

Summary:
wine-girl said: HH is great because the winery itself is all about atmosphere. Kid-friendly, picnic-friendly, and dog-friendly, a great weekend evening can be spent hanging out at the vineyard listening to amazing acoustic music, chatting with other wine & music lovers, and enjoying wine by the glass.

We said: A clink of our glasses to Michelle for tasting along with Us in our slurpin’ tour. Her Memorial Day weekend winery crawl sounds like a terrific way to relax and enjoy what Ohio River Valley has to offer.

Also, a thank you to Nancy Bentley of Kinkead Ridge. We’re sorry to not have been able to sample Kinkead’s wines, but our palates have been piqued. United Slurps of America: Ohio, part deux?

Finally, a big cheers to Bill and Patti Skvarla and their staff at Harmony Hill Vineyards. These are good folks. We poked around the internet and were delighted to discover that in addition to producing award winning wine (Harmony Hill’s 2008 Rubato took home a Gold medal and the 2007 Refrain took home a Bronze in the 25th Hilton Head International Wine Festival) the Skvarla’s are dedicated to protecting the bucolic countryside of the Ohio River Valley. The National Wildlife Federation has certified a significant portion of their 70 acre property as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat site, protecting the diverse and abundant wildlife that live live and nest on the property. When our virtual tasting tour becomes an actual one, We’re making it a destination.

(All photos from Harmony Hill’s website…check it out for more sweet shots.)

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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