Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sweet Figs & Red Hot Peppers or Muzak & Malbec?

from the "one of these things is not like the other" dept.

“I need you to go have lunch at you know where,” the salesman left me the message. Usually when he leaves one like that we need to go in there and spend a little money. Oh well, how bad could it be, four star rating  with no lack of talent in the kitchen. A shame the chef usually scowls when you walk in the place looking to drop some cash.

So it went this week in my little corner of the world. Some good, some bad, some in the middle, some out, some in. July is here, it’s so damn hot, thank heavens my little isola is brimming with life.

At the bistro I was in the mood for a St. Emilion. Red wine and a merlot/cabernet at that, for lunch. So not like me. But there you have it – that was my mood. The affable waiter suggested a seared tuna to go with the wine, my colleague had a halibut with chorizo, spicy peppers and olives – it looked like it would go really well with the Bordeaux.

Mine went well with all but the onions, little raw red chunks that fought with the wine. But, as I have been doing all week, I moved them out of the way and proceeded to nosh on the tuna. Lovely stuff.

A day later I had an appointment to meet a winemaker from Toro. Big red wines, and from my experience in the past, I was braced for wild, out-of-control volatility. I dodged the bullet, as said winemaker had a good palate and brought those wines out of the Iron Age and into the Jazz Age. Very happy, and for me to sip on wine before noon, red wine at that, and not have the mother of all headaches, no small feat. The Krug chaser at lunch helped immensely.

Friday evening a colleague and friend was in town from Houston, I suggested we eat at home on the isola. Again fish, a wild Sockeye salmon and a large salad. This time we started with Champagne. When I was in California, Samantha pressed a bottle of R.H. Coutier into my hands. I brought it home and saved it for this moment. It was delicious in a fuller, sweeter way than the Krug. Interesting to try two different Champagnes in one day – both at the top of their game. Then it was on to more red wine.

I had a bottle of Franco Fiorina Barbaresco I had found on a rack at work, languishing, begging me to take it home. So I did. It was ready, still a little sun burnt from the vintage (2003) but the mellow Nebbiolo character I love so much from Barbaresco was evident and so I overlooked the heat. Not too hard sitting in a room that was near 80 – other things going on in the ambient surroundings.

Then I went into my little cave and brought out an Hermitage from Jaboulet, “La Chapelle” 1985. I thought the first bottle had a little stink of cork in the nose, although it didn’t taste like it. So I went back in and got another one. The second one didn’t have any taint, but the wine was showing a maturity that made me think my little cave hadn’t been so kind to these normally hearty wines. But we made do and moved on to amaro and grappa.

The next day, we had to be somewhere for dinner – official work. Not my favorite thing to do but I know the drill. From my first impression (the sign on the building welcoming George and Laura Bush back from Washington D.C.) going in I was a little leery. Earlier I had called in and asked if I could bring my own wine in. “No- we have very good wine list – very good wine list – full bar – you will like.” I’ll be the judge of that. Anyway we went in, sans the wine of choice and stared at the list. I finally settled on a Chianti and ordered it. And waited. Appetizers came and went. Soups and salads came. Still no Chianti. Then the server came up and told me that they didn’t have the wine. A small list, maybe 20 wines on it and they were out of the one I thought would do the least harm? Oy. Oy. Oy. So I ordered two glasses of Malbec. Supermarket stuff. When the wine arrived I plied my glass with about six ice cubes to cool it off and tone it down. That was like putting Chapstick on a rug burn. Jeesh. The Muzak was playing a Percy Faith medley, with themes from the Godfather, Dr Zhivago and Fiddler on the Roof. And repeating the songs. I was in hell. But I had a filet on order so I bided my time.

The long awaited filet arrived with some strange sauce that looked like dried bait. So I scraped and scraped and scraped again and made do. It was work after all, for one of us at the table, and I was getting into the absurdity of the time warp I had arrived in.

I thought about how lately I haven’t been much of a wine blogger. I haven’t written about the ten best Brunellos I'd just had or put up a picture of some exotic vineyard in Mendoza. I hadn't tweeted from Santorini or the Bekaa Valley. I hadn’t blogged or Facebooked or Tweeted begging all my friends and followers to vote for my blog. No, I had just been swept into a vortex where I became become Henry Hill, with noodles and ketchup and Muzak and Malbec. I was the topping on the filet, dried bait.

At least I know I can find some decent Sangiovese in the little cave on my isola - so I can properly declare my independence from mediocrity.

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