All posts by steve

Scotch

I’ve stolen the text of this post from Kristian Berg.

From a single malt scotch tasting party some years ago. Comments from the assembled tasters.

Oban 14 year… “Dear Oban, I know what you look like- Catherine
Zeta-Jones, still single, living in the Western Highlands- offering me a kiss that is your taste!” 

Macallan 12 year… “A naked afternoon in front of a cozy fire” 

Glenkinchie 10 year… “Porch-swingin’ linger with a neighbor- ‘hey! howdya like a scotch? I’ve got Glenkinchie’ ‘Say what? ‘Glenkinchie…’ So we wrapped up around 10pm and I forgot I had any problems… my neighbor? He said he couldn’t feel his toes…” 

Isle of Jura… “Someone just pushed me down the hill- rolling blur of sun and field flowers” “More fruity – earthy as single malts go with a bit of a circle burn on the
after-swallow (if that’s even a word)” 

Dalwhinnie 15 year… “The whip strikes and stings so sweetly” “Stable – like a pleasant ride in a mid-grade BMW” 

Glenfiddich… “Screw the rocksalt, it’s glenfiddich and lock de-icer in my vehicle this winter!” 

Laphroig 10 year… this is a peaty smokey Islay scotch… “The underside of Gandalf’s green wellies comes to mind and to tongue”!

Famille Perrin, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Just when you thought it was safe to open this blog, you discover we spent two weeks in France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, click your clicker right here: http://norskmaiden.com/category/france-2019/

Our second wine visit on this day was less interesting to us as we weren’t there to buy wine to take home. This visit was more like dropping into a wine shop with friends, which we can do back in the USA. However, we enjoyed their wines more than the previous place.

The Famille Perrin tasting room is in the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is a tiny place and as a result I’m foreshadowing something to come.

See that box on the counter? It’s got the best winery snack we’ve had so far. BONUS POINTS!

The family crest.

This is where we lost the bus. Or the bus lost us.

We hiked down the hill past the school….

… and here you see us troop off into the distance. Eventually we were forced to join the French Foreign Legion and serve in North Africa.

Well, eventually we made a few calls, and sent a couple scouting parties which made contact with our transportation. Then came the next problem. This ain’t the suburbs baby. Ya can’t just drive your giant heavy bus down any old street, leaving our party stranded.

Well, some members of our party aren’t as spry as they used to be. We got it all figured out. Advice: don’t leave the bus without the bus driver’s phone number.

As an aside, Famille Perrin’s entry level red is right there on the end-cap at our Portland New Seasons market.

Pope Hat

Frequent visitors know by now we spent two weeks in France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, click your clicker on here: http://norskmaiden.com/category/france-2019/

Some of the Portland people in our group organized a side-trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here we are on a bus we eventually lost.

Maison Bouachon, our first stop.

Here is an example of how their vines grow. Note this is not an exaggeration, the soil is quite rocky.

Here is a chart of the grape varietals grown in the area.

I love these giant casks they use to age the wine.

Some of the members of our group did not enjoy the wines here, finding them overly oxidized. What would you think? Only one way to know for sure, go check it out for yourself.

They did put on a good show here. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for giant wooden casks.

Here’s a clever wine tool set that’s also a game of chess.

And here we see a typical vineyard. The rocks are believed to retain the heat of the day and radiate it back to the vines at night. Another goal for the way they are trained is to allow the local “mistral” winds to keep the vines dry.

The ruin on top of the hill contains an ancient lich and his legions of skeletons. Your party will want magic users, clerics… ok, just kidding. We are told this was the Pope’s summer cabin.

Vineyard Tour, Tain L’Hermitage, France

As it so happens, when you weren’t looking, we snuck into France. For more on our 2019 travels in Gaul, put your clicker on here: http://norskmaiden.com/category/france-2019/

A day in Tournon-sur-Rhône. We went on a walking tour to the vineyards of Tain L’Hermitage.

They often trim the vines close to the ground where it’s warmer.

In other areas they train the vines up individual posts instead of a trellis.

As you can see, the hill is quite steep.

Very rocky soil.

…and a stop at the chocolate factory! Valrhona, it’s called. Which we unknowingly will use later in our journey in Paris to make chocolate lava cakes in our cooking class.

Cider Melenig

So we are in Paris at a crepe place and they offer us cider and they bring out this from Cidrerie Melenig:

It is quite delightful. Dry, floral and a wee bit tart. The cider nerds I know would describe its character on the “funky” barnyard side vs. clean and simple.

Anyhoo – get some today!

La Brasserie Pirate Pale Ale

Well, is this lovely? When you are me and your life is weird, one day you may wake up on a boat in the south of France. Today I find myself in Arles and I’m wandering down the street and there’s a bookshop that also advertises 100 local craft beers. Tres bien! So I walk away with this fine bottle of Avignon Pale Ale from La Brasserie Pirate.

What’s it like? Why, it’s delightful! Unlike our Zing! Pow! hop-heavy IPA’s in the Pacific Northwest, this has the lighter floral character Belgian beer fans will recognize. It’s also a cloudy beer bottled on lees. It’s just slightly sweet with low carbonation.

I like it and I think you will too.

Rhum Belami from Vietnam

Rhum Belami: The First Premium Rhum Made In Vietnam

I recently returned for a business trip to Ho Chi Mihn City and I was lucky enough to bring one of these back with me. You might not know this, but Vietnam grows excellent sugar, and from sugar comes rum / rhum. Quite possibly, this is the only bottle of Rhum Belami in the entire United States at this moment! I suspect this will change before long.

And what a story! Here’s a photo of Roddy Battajon, distiller and founder of the company who generously hand-delivered my bottle to our offices. Read his story by clicking here.

I grew up watching my grandmother make rhum.

This amber colored rhum has a very strong aroma of mango and papaya, amazing!  I was advised by the distiller that it’s perfect as it is over ice and I’d have to agree.  The fruit aroma follows with a strong fruit flavor.  In fact, the flavor is almost strong enough to be a liqueur.

Are his rhum products good? Well, don’t take my word for it:

Nobody’s itching for a stiff glass of snake wine at the end of a long day

https://roadsandkingdoms.com/

At the moment you’ll need to travel to Vietnam to add this to your collection. In the meantime, I suggest you connect with Roddy and his team here on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RhumBelami/

  • Legacy Edition: this a fruity and spicy rhum that is perfect for many occasions such as enjoying a drink with friends in a bar.
  • Premium Rhum: made of organic coconut, Kopi Luwak coffee beans, roasted chocolate, Bandé wood and other, its sweetness will perfectly fit with a dessert (I advise to drink it with a red fruits dessert)
  • White Rhum: this rhum is still in process but I want it to herbs twisted: lemongrass, basilica for instance.

 

Remember, you heard it here first!

Cellar Rat at Patton Valley Vineyards

It was 2018 and Patton Valley Vineyards needed heavy things moved around, stuff cleaned and wine put into bottles.  You can’t just have any idiot help out with that, you need a very special idiot, and that’s where I come in!

Here’s Derek getting the bottling line set up.

It’s true, half the fun is a beautiful place to work.

Portrait of a cellar rat. Again, this is the glory you miss out on by having a cushy desk job, you fat old people, you.

Hey, these casks won’t top themselves, pumpkins!

Hey! Who’s got blue eyes and no hair?

Patton Valley Vineyards

The Harvest Hand Workout, or How I Learned to Love Pinot Noir

If you’ve been reading this blog as long as I have, you may remember a couple years back when we launched an amphibious assault on the Wineries of the Willamette Valley, and just didn’t enjoy it as much as the places we’d visited in the Columbia Gorge. At the time we thought that perhaps the Pinot Noir wasn’t for us, but on further discussion it wasn’t so much the liquids, but the high tasting fees (compared to the Columbia Gorge) and just the feeling that we weren’t as warmly received as we were in other wine regions.

Frequent readers will know by now that our research seems to indicate that wine is sold more on an emotional connection, than what is specifically in the bottle.

Did we not know how to enjoy Pinot Noir, or was the situation where it was presented less than what we’ve learned to expect?

So why bring this up now? Fall of 2017 cracked over our heads like an egg into a hot skillet. What do you do if you’re 48 and need a job? Hey, why not be a harvest hand?

Here we are in a quiet moment on the deck behind the Torii Mor teahouse:

Torii Mor harvest crew 2017

Can one be a harvest hand at 49? Well, it didn’t kill me. In fact, at the end of harvest I was so fit I could do pull-ups again.  The thing is, no one single task is too hard during Harvest, it’s the marathon aspect – 12 hours sorting grapes and you’re back at it again at 8am the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day.

That’s the hard part.  Standing up and doing every day, day after day until it’s done.  Here’s Steph doing a great job of Taking Care of Business:

Torii Mor 2017 Harvest season

Here’s the thing: making wine is mostly about cleaning things and moving heavy things around.  Endless respect to Jon for putting together a stellar crew.  Not one whiner, not one shirker, not one bum in the group.  If you needed something, by the time you turned around someone was handing the tool you needed almost before you asked.

Here’s Diane Nemarnik getting hands-on with Steph barreling down the wine she made with her grapes in the Torii Mor facility:

We also made wine for Dr. Mike. He’s a good guy, he had no qualms about getting his hands dirty helping us clean the equipment at the end of the day. However, he was a little confused. I don’t have a photo of this, but he generously brought some of his wine for the harvest crew to taste, and the guy with the good-paying day job asked, “So, what part of this is the best?” We looked at each other, and had to answer, “This part – the sitting down and tasting wine.” Why? Because there’s nothing fun about 12 hours of sorting grapes unless you’re touched in the head.

It’s just bloody hard work.  It’s rewarding, but it feels best when you stop.

Look, I’m going to tell you that  my favorite part of the work was throwing the punch-down stick over my shoulder and walking down to the cellar to work over the fermenters, feeling strong and vital and part of a thousands-something year old tradition of making wine.  Here’s what it looked like:

Hey, shall we flip some casks and steam the heck out of them? Of course!

Yes, I can run a forklift now.

Here’s a rare photo of Jon almost standing still.

As I mentioned before, making wine is mostly about cleaning things. I know, how romantic!

I was usually taking the photos, so here’s a rare one of your author proving that he wasn’t making this stuff up.

I hope I don’t have to tell you that this whip-thin set of grrlz did every physical thing us grunty/sweaty man-men did without complaint, if not straight out putting us to shame with their abilities.

Here’s a rare photo of our winemaker Jacques actually standing still. The rest of us had the easy jobs – just follow orders. The ultimate success of our efforts fell on his shoulders and he was one very busy man. Outside of the knowledge he carries around about turning grapes into something you might want to drink, I am still in awe of how he’d fill a five-gallon bucket full of bentonite and zip up an 80′ ladder with it like he was taking a sandwich to kindergarten.

Torii Mor

Here’s Jacque again, schooling us on how to take care of the casks.

Torii Mor

So, Pinot Noir? Yes, I’ve learned to love it. You have to watch out for it’s subtlety. Stand back and wait for it to come to you. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve had a chance to taste it at every step of the process and now I have that emotional connection spoken of at the start of this missive. Mayhaps you can have a journey half as rewarding as the one I’ve had.

This post wouldn’t be complete without this great portrait of Jeromy.

Torii Mor

Treveri Cellars – Yakima

Well kids, this is a place that does it right.  Treveri Cellars, outside of Yakima WA.  They make enjoyable and very affordable sparkling wines.

Treveri Cellars

Why do I say these gals and guys do it right? This place is a dang fine time.

Ok, it’s true, this isn’t a great photo, but their building and tasting room will surprise you by having a German twist instead of a French twist like you’d expect.

There’s no charge for the tasting flight, but as you can get into one of their bottles of bubbly for only $15 so you might as well go for the full meal deal. Speaking of which – the food is good. We quite enjoyed their sausage plate.

It was a bit breezy out and October. Hey, guess what?  They keep a basket of blankets around so you can stay comfortable while enjoying the outdoors.

The staff was great too. Here’s our server, a gent who goes by the nom de guerre of “Dr. Bubbles”. Appropriate! He made sure we had a warm welcome and everyone there did a lovely job taking care of us and the other customers.

Four thumbs up!