the almond joy-ful wine

Clearly, the Upside Down C has been on my back burner. My apologies! Since my last post, I accepted and started a new job, moved to a new city (albeit not very far away), and started writing for another blog at the new job. Please cut me some slack; my creative juices were spent! This is not to say, however, that I have not been drinking my fair share of vino.

In fact, in my new digs in Dallas, I am a few short skips from Cork, my new favorite wine hole.

At Cork, you put money on a wine-only debit card (which is awesome) and not only can you buy a great bottle, you can swipe your card at one of their computer kiosks for a glass or a taste! It’s an incredibly entertaining little wine bar…I’m a huge fan.

Anyway, cutie-pie-lawyer-boy-who-hasn’t-picked-a-blog-pseudonym-yet and I made a pit stop at Cork in route to the airport recently.  We enjoyed a couple glasses of 2009 Bordeaux from Chateau Pezat. We were particularly drawn to this wine because the cool chick at Cork told us that 1) it was a great summer red and that 2) (wait for it…) it smelled like an Almond Joy. After a swipe of my Cork card and a taste of it, we were sold.

She was right. Coconut and chocolate aromas abound. Despite its visual vibrancy and aromatic potency, this is absolutely a summer vino. Surprisingly light and smooth, with a quick finish and a dash of pepper, the taste of this Pezat does not really reflect the magical Almond Joy aromas. It is kind of a strange wine, but still solidly enjoyable and complex in its journey from nose to palette to tummy.

 

Toma Wesselmann, Mouth #11, 1967, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection

Much like a little kid, I was hooked at the Almond Joy reference. I probably wouldn’t have tried this wine otherwise. In the same vain, I sometimes am not attracted to an artwork purely because of its aesthetic beauty, but because of some interesting contextual tidbit that has “hooked” me. In particular, I’m thinking of Wellerman’s, Mouth #11.  I came across it at work researching figuration in modern art. I wasn’t impressed upon first glance, but when I started to really think about Mouth #11 in terms of figuration—or lack thereof—I see a portrait of an ambiguous, androgynous person, and I’m intrigued. Who is this cig smoker? Where is her or his face? What can we gather about her or him from lips and a smoke? What is this person’s story? Would we be friends?

As I mentioned before, I stopped at Cork before heading to the airport…I was in route to serve my bridesmaid’s duty in one of my best friends nuptials in Charlotte, NC.

So, I think a special shout-out to my beautiful and dear friend, A-Mo is appropriate: I absolutely could not be happier for you, and I am so thrilled to be a part of your celebration. Your hubby-to-be is one lucky dude to get to spend every day of the rest of his life with you. Love you (and wish y’all would consider moving to Dallas)!

I’m back in the game,

AVS

 

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the mesmerizing rosé

Sanglier Rosé du Tusque, 2010

Finding inspiration in duality

I’ve been dying to try Ellerbe in Fort Worth and was delighted when friend of mine, Jameson took me to dinner there by surprise. As much as I wanted to pay attention to my thoughtful and charming company, all I could think about was the 2010 Sanglier Rosé in front of me, which paired in a most smashing way with my cornmeal crusted redfish and crawfish etouffee. The rosé was rich with berry flavors and other wild fruits, but grounded by a subtle minerality. 

The visual vibrancy of the rosé reflects its vibrancy on the palate…a distinct duality of fruit and mineral. This duality makes me think of a paper I wrote in undergrad about 17th century Indian embroideries, popular in wealthy English homes, that exhibit both English and Indian stylistic qualities. During the 17th century, imported “exotic” goods from India (and China and Persia) via the East India Company were wildly popular in England. Importers quickly realized, however, that the English favored their own designs while still desiring Indian goods. So, Company merchants had Indian artisans copy English patterns to increase imports , thereby  creating a unique stylistic fusion of two different cultures.

Embroidered cotton bed hanging; c. 1700; India (for Western markets)

I realize it has been way too long since my last post…I seem to have been un-inspired amidst all the holiday festivities. (Side note:* I did, however, enjoy some delicious vinos during my blogging hiatus.) But I’ve rediscovered inspiration when I consider how the concept of duality, which is all around us, keeps the world in a balanced state of equilibrium. Think: night/day, good/evil, male/female, one fish/two fish/red fish/blue fish, etc. I have ridiculous Christmastime excitement that begins early to mid August, and I start listening to James Taylor’s Christmas CD about that time. So, I basically spend half of every year in Christmas mode. But after six months of JT’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain”, I’m completely saturated and ready for the flip side of X-mas: the start of a new year complete with spring flowers and sunshine.

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an unanswerable Italian red

Jermann’s Red Angel on the Moonlight, 2008

Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question. -Tennessee Williams

 

Red Angel on the Moonlight

I didn’t have time on my way home from work on All Hallow’s Eve to pick up some Belle Glos Meiomi. Initially, a big bummer. Instead I opened a bottle of Jermann’s 2008 Red Angel on the Moonlight to enjoy as I handed out candy to all the little ghosts, witches, and Iron Men that rang the doorbell that night. Turned out to not be a bummer at all.

a witch, a dog, a pumpkin (Artie), and some Red Angel

As I sipped on this vino through my strapped-on snout (See Figure 1) my auntie and I agreed on its mid-bodied, rich complexity. The dark berry aromas paired well with the mini-packs of Reese’s Pieces and Starbursts; but what really stood out to me was an earthy, sturdy finish.

As an art history nerd, I always investigate the label. And I’m slightly obsessed with this vino’s fantastically creative and mysterious label and name: Red Angel on the Moonlight… does red refer to the color of the contents? Can I characterize the wine’s layers as angelic? What can we make of the contrast of red with the color of moonlight? Is said angel flying though the moonlight or literally hanging out on the moon’s surface (literally in the light of the moon)?

I visited in the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh a couple years ago and experienced an equally enigmatic work of art: Yumi Kori’s kanata, which is the Japanese word for “far in the distance.” As you enter Kori’s installation, you are immersed in complete darkness, save a glowing red door that both bewares and invites. This door appears close in physical proximity yet “far in the distance.” In an expression of in between-ness, Kori poses the unanswerable question: Where are we going and why?

"kanata," water, wood, rubber, light, sound system (2008)

Experiences in wine and art (and life in general) that provoke unanswerable questions inspire me. Once I saw a comedian crack jokes about how we never have to wonder about anything anymore because we all have smart phones. With thought provoking wine labels and contemporary installations, we can make sure our brains are still working.

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a festive pinot noir

Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir, 2009

My flavor of the month

 

I have a new favorite pinot noir. The first time I tasted this, I could have sworn I was drinking Christmas in a glass – my favorite time of year. I was certain of it.

(from left to right) Artie, Andi, Chirpee, Gus

In retrospect, my categorization of Meiomi may not be quite accurate. I tried it again the other night on a “double date” (albeit a loose interpretation of one) at Brownstone with Chirpee, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Gus. Side note: For Artie and Gus, it was basically love at first sight.

This time around, the Meiomi pn was incredibly unique, full of rich fruits and complexity. I tasted a variety of dark fruits, some vanilla, some spices. However, the flavors are subtle enough that you do not risk overpowering a lighter meal, should you choose to pair it with one. Chirpee and I both ordered petite filets, and the vino also balanced beautifully with the red meat. I appreciate this kind of versatility. I am so impressed with this vino. While I would certainly include “holiday spices” to this complex vino’s repertoire of flavors, I no longer will limit its definition to The Christmas Wine, but rather, a festive vino. Not Christmas in a glass…a party in a glass.

Carmen Lomas Garza, "Titos Gig on the Moon" (2002)

I adored this wine. Much in the same way I absolutely adore the holidays. I am thinking of Carmen Lomas Garza, a Chicana artist whose work illustrates the everyday lives of Mexican Americans, based on her own family experiences. Specifically,  Tito’s Gig on the Moon (2002) with its vivid explosions of color, richly patterned fabrics, dancing figures and outer-worldly-party-atmosphere well reflects the rich, flavorful nature  of this vino. I’m drawn to Garza’s work additionally because I can see my own loco and loving familia in them. And my family is most definitely a festive crew.

I plan to kick off the 2011 holiday season (which begins November 1 in my calendar)  by passing out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters tonight while sipping on my own festive “treat”: Meiomi Pinot Noir.

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the wine triptych

The Wine Tasters and Our Pizza

My favorite pairing in the world: pizza and wine

A couple weeks ago Chirpee and I took a train from Fort Worth into Dallas for dinner with our D-town local the Alligator and Lola, who was in town from San Fran. At Coal Vines in Uptown we ordered some tasty-tasty pizza (half: salami/artichoke/balsamic reduction; other half: “regular pie”)Though the pie at Coal Vines is delish on its own,  we clearly needed some vino with which to pair it. (Pizza and wine is my favorite pairing of all.)

We chose A by Acacia (2009). Most of us had tried Acacia before, as many restaurants serve it, and we were drawn to its riskless-ness. This table vino is fruitier than most pinot noirs, but not overwhelmingly so. Comfortable pretty much sums it up. The Alligator described it as “the bathtub wine,” referring to its drinkability while you are sitting in the tub, book in hand…a little Grooveshark in the background… no food pairings or hyper-sensitive taste buds necessary.

But after a glass of this light-bodied wine, we wanted something a little richer. We chose Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Zinfandel (2008), which exhibited similar drinkability to A, but with the extra kick (mostly in the finish) we were seeking. Its surprisingly smooth richness ignited a riveting conversation about the diverse range of zins…from the $5 sugary rosé that gives zins a bad rap to underrated robust reds with a high alcohol content.

And then we realized we had missed the last train back to Fort Worth. Whoops. To help us brainstorm our return to FunkyTown, we ordered some Tamas Estates, Double Decker Red Blend, an even more complex red with dark fruits and a spicy finish.  Sidenote: We hitched a ride with a buddy who conveniently happened to be making the west-bound trek that evening.

Wine Triptych

This conscious progression of three from simple to complex, comfortable to more intense (a triptych, if you will!) immediately reminds me of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The left panel of this triptych represents the peaceful and balanced Garden of Eden. This is the “A by Acacia” panel. Humans and creatures partake in a variety of earthly pleasures-some more obscene than others-in the middle panel. Like the zin, this panel has a more energy and significantly more “spice” than its predecessor. Finally, Bosch’s right panel, significantly darker in color and content, represents hell. While the Double Decker blend was not hellish in the slightest, it was easily the most intense wine of the three.

El Bosco, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," 1500-1505

Bosch’s triptych sends a message of the fleeting, transitory nature of worldly pleasures. From that, I think we should take advantage of the time we do have on this world and partake in my favorite “earthly delight”: vino.

 

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the pinot grigio imposter

2007 Schloss Vollrads Kabinett Riesling

Pairing steak with an imposter riesling

 

Mamacita and me sipping on the riesling

After twenty years of vegetarianism and pescatarianism, I enjoyed my first filet mignon last weekend with my two favorite people: Mamacita and Daddy-o. The steak was delicious. (I think. But I don’t really have anything with which to compare it.) Despite my initial unease with pairing a white with my meat, Mamacita is a recent riesling aficionado and we ordered a bottle of 2007 Schloss Vollrads Kabinett Riesling.

The wine was crisp and fresh with a distinct citrus undertone. If I hadn’t read the label, I would have guessed it was a pinot grigio, because it didn’t exhibit the sugary, almost saccharine flavor I associate with German rieslings.

 

Schloss Vollrads Riesling and Stamp.

 

Side note: Yes, we invited him to pull up a chair and a glass and join in on the family dinner. We do that sometimes. I don’t know, maybe it’s a single-child-family thing. He enjoyed it, despite his general dislike for rieslings.

 

During my high school days, I wrote a college admissions essay about one of my favorite works of art: Robert Irwin’s Untitled (1968) from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s permanent collection. Hanging out with my parentals in Funky Town now reminds me of those high school days, and I’m reminded of Irwin. A photo does not do his work justice, as it deals with visual perception and the manipulation of an environment through light and shadow. In essence, he creates substance where no substance actually exists…much like this riesling created a pinot grigio where one did not exist. Not shockingly, the riesling paired better with Mom’s sea bass than my cow part…Lesson #1 of my new carnivorousness learned.

 

Robert Irwin Untitled, 1968

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a friendly pinot noir

Lonely Cow Pinot Noir, 2008, New Zealand

And the moral of the  story  wine is…

 

Toasting to the Vandy Days with Lonely Cow Pinot Noir

When you are an only child, best friends are like your siblings.  A couple weeks ago, I spent a much-needed recharge weekend  in Nashville with two of my “sibs,” where we hit up our old college go-tos and had a most brilliant time.**

At Sunset Grill on Saturday night, I was appointed the task of choosing the wine. Since bestie #1 strongly prefers whites and bestie #2 has a strong white wine allergy, it proved a slightly difficult task. So I chose a New Zealand pinot noir called Lonely Cow.

The tannins were subtle as were the overall flavors, which is not surprising for a pinot noir explicitly described as “light-bodied.” As #2 (the allergic one) observed, the vino was incredibly easy to drink and would pair with anything. #1 observed that “she could probably chug it.” Thanks for the commentary.

Bestie #3 (which is me) noticed an odd, almost-spicy finish that distracted me from the actual wine. Anyway, Lonely Cow is ultimately a simple wine…but despite its simplicity, you surely won’t be lonely if you bring it to an outing with these three Vandy gals.

Jean Arp, "Torso with Buds", bronze, 1961, Nasher Sculpture Center

I’m reminded of Jean Arp’s Torso with Buds from the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. The first reason is superficial: the work’s title mentions “buds,” and Lonely Cow will forever make me think of my “buds.” Additionally, the smooth and simple surface qualities of the work exude a pleasant, easy air. The work even draws the eye upward in an almost uplifting and happy way, much like my Lonely Cow weekend.

Moral of the story from the author’s perspective:

A bottle of vino can be fabulous if it meets one or both of the following criteria:

1) It is a quality bottle of wine.

2) It is enjoyed with quality company.

 

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the focus-less carménère

Chateau Los Boldos, Momentos Carménère de Chile, 2007

Variety is the spice of life.

 

Winslow'sI just love Winslow’s Wine Café. (Though I was quite flustered when I couldn’t find the trusty valet attendant…apparently Winslow’s does not offer valet on Sundays…) Regardless, I enjoyed the “happy hour red,” Momentos Carménère, with a longtime (and super-hunky) friend last Sunday evening. Chirpee and her beau stopped by for a bev before their dinner reservations, which was also a delight! The vino was mid-bodied – reminiscent of a cab – but with a little more kick. And by kick, I refer to a subtly spicy finish, which is possibly a nod to the wine’s Chilean home. I picked up some fruit, some chocolate, some spice, some earth, yet none of the flavors seemed to stand out.

Sam Francis, "Yunan," lithograph, 1971, from the Dallas Museum of Art

I’m reminded of Sam’s Francis’ Yunan, part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s collection, which similarly exhibits a variety of “flavors” (or more appropriately) colors.  The splashes of vivid brights and hints of flavor are in equal balance in both the lithograph and the carménère. What stands out as the most direct connection between the wine and the art however, is the lack of central focus. Nothing particular jumped out at me as I sipped the carménère, and the central focus of the print is void of the color and energy infused in the rest of the work.  But the more I think about it, the more I enjoy a lack of focus. Or perhaps it’s not a “lack” of focus, but a “multi-focus” that keeps life (and art and wine) a little interesting.

Momentos de Chile

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the strong but captivating nero d’avola

Feudo Maccari Saia Nero D’Avola, 2008

Give me some cheddar.

 

Artemisia supervising the clicker

Sometimes my wine tasting is an incredibly social and exciting occasion. But sometimes I just enjoy vino with Artemisia Genteleschi (the mal-shi, not the Baroque painter) while watching a movie or a rerun of Friday Night Lights. Side note: We used to watch True Blood, but the visual parallels between vino and blood began to creep us out.

Saia Nero D'Avola, 2008

The other night, Artie and I watched “The Hurricane” while I tasted this medium to full-bodied nero d’avola, which smells like a springtime basket of berries drenched in Mexican vanilla but is earthy on the palette. Pepper flavors linger on my tongue amidst a finish that is so long and bold that I wish I had a chunk of sharp cheddar cheese to stick in my mouth to interrupt it. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but my palette has forgotten full-bodied reds, as I have generally avoided them in this 100+ degree Texas summer.

I’m reminded of Artemisia Gentileschi’s (the painter, not the pup) Judith Slaying Holofernes, which is an equally strong work. So strong, infact, that you are tempted to look away (or eat a piece of cheese) from the gruesomely realistic beheading, but you can’t look away because Gentileschi’s painting technique is so theatrical yet believable and therefore, captivating. By painting techniques, I am referring to her use of contrasting lights and darks and pyramidal composition (thank you Leo DaVinci for introducing this!) which dynamically draws our attention to the unfortunate Holofernes. I am so impressed that Gentileschi-the first woman artist to be accepted into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno- created such powerful, physical works during a time when being both a woman and an artist were not socially acceptable.

Artemisia Gentileschi, "Judith Slaying Holofernes," 1611-1612

Though what I admire most about Gentileschi’s work is her ability to tell a story. Judith Slaying Holofernes depicts the Old Testament tale of the beautiful Judith and the Assyrian general Holofernes who intends to destroy her town the following morning. With focused courage and determination, Judith seduces and intoxicates Holofernes in his tent until he passes out, and she consequently cuts off his head in order to save her beloved town. The complexity of the Saia Nero D’Avola tells a (perhaps more diluted) story of berries and earth and vanilla and cheese, while Judith Slaying Holofernes tells of resolve and female empowerment.

Feudo Maccari 2008 Saia – Nero d’Avola Red Wine

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the smooth-finish, french sauvignon blanc

2008 Domaine des Berthiers Pouilly-Fume

“The fader” 

A little pool time + a bottle of sauvignon blanc on the patio + red snapper at Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano + some boogying down at Rio Room . . . all with a good friend = a fabulous Saturday.

My brilliant AND beautiful doctor buddy and I thoroughly enjoyed this soft, almost buttery vino. I could taste some subtle fruits, but more minerals. It had a refreshing finish, yet the aftertaste did not linger on your palette; my friend made a perceptive observation: there is a very noticeable and pleasant “fade” of flavors after you swallow.

This concept of fading reminds me of Kara Walker’s intense (sometimes explicit) silhouettes, which serve as commentary on antebellum plantation culture and its implications on present day race issues. With Walker’s work, I notice a conscious effort to ensure that part of history does not fade, despite the dark spot that it represents for the US. While this sauvignon blanc can be characterized by its smooth fading on the tongue, Walker’s work, can be characterized as an anti-fade (an Andi-created word).

Kara Walker, "Slavery! Slavery! ...", 1997

While my fave supplier is not selling this particular wine and vintage, try this vino for something similar. (And try to eat it with some snapper.)

Domaine Francis Blanchet 2009 Pouilly Fume Cuvee Silice – Sauvignon Blanc White Wine

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