31 January 2011

Elio Perrone Sourgal 2009 Moscato d'Asti

I have a soft spot for Moscato d'Astis, or for good ones at least - I've never been a huge fan of champagne (though there are a few that I have liked), but there are few things more festive than sparkling wines.  The Moscato grape makes a sweet, light wine, and most wineries make it slightly sparkling.

Elio Perrone is my favorite source for Moscato d'Asti, and I have enjoyed several of their bottlings: Bigaro, Carte, and, as noted above, their Sourgal 2009.

The wine is light in color, far more delicate than chardonnays or rieslings.  It carries scents of grape and peach blossoms, and a slight minerality.  The body is light, and the flavors of peach shine through.  Its acidity offers a nice cleansing of the palate.

I drank the wine with a meal of breakfast-for-dinner: crunchy french toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon.  I served the wine mixed with an equal part of Simply Orange orange juice, which proved an excellent combination, sweeter than a mimosa, and thoroughly enjoyable with the meal: the sweetness and acidity paved the way for a smooth transition between the different courses.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable bottle, though it can be hard to find, but when it is found, it can be got for about $20.

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Books: Still reading Salem's Lot - I'm on chapter 5 - and finished my friend's first draft of her novel, which was excellent!

Bottles: Mostly been drinking Alamos Malbec 2008, and of course the above Elio Perrone Sourgal 2009.

Guitar: Working on "Sheep," as well as a blues study.

Writing: Typing up the second draft of my novel.

26 January 2011

Chappellet 2007 Mountain Cuvee

Chappellet Winery, located in Napa Valley, is one of my favorite wineries.  I've been saving a bottle of their 2007 Cabernet for some time now and plan on opening it in 2012, and I've just found some bottles of 2008 that I am going to cellar.  Their Cabernet usually runs around $50, though, so it's not exactly a weekday wine for me.  However, the Mountain Cuvee, which runs about $25, is right up my alley.  A wonderful blend, it's made of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 1% each of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

The bouquet is fruity with undertones of earthiness, and the color is a lush garnet.  It has a good, substantial body to it - but not too heavy.

Upon tasting, it reveals a vibrant fruit, as well as a potent acidity that is quite refreshing.  The tannins are surprisingly soft, but they are there, lingering in the background, giving the wine structure.  The wine is rather strong - nearly 15% alcohol by volume - and packs a potent punch, with a lingering tannic finish.

I enjoyed the wine with filet mignon (braised in red wine with onions) and a potato dauphinoise.  Strangely, the wine was nicer with the potatoes, cutting through their butteriness and cleansing the palate, than with the steak - the wine was too potent for the steak, overpowering the flavor.  I think it would have been better with a grilled or broiled preparation.

I love Chappellet and they are at the top of my list of wineries I would like to visit in California.  Their wines are a bit harder to find, but if you see them, get them - you won't be disappointed!

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Books: Started reading Salem's Lot, but also reading my friend's Nanowrimo novel right now.

Bottles: The aforementioned Chappellet 2007 Mountain Cuvee.

Writing: Working on revising the last chapter of my novella; I find I don't have much to change in this last chapter.  I don't know if that's because it's too near or because I just really like it.  It's the part I got the most positive feedback on, so I feel okay about not revising it too much, though I would like to take the emotional impact even further.

Guitar: Working on "Sheep" as well as Carcassi's "Study in A."

18 January 2011

The Lord of the Rings

Today I finished my annual reading of The Lord of the Rings.  It took a bit longer this year, as I was a bit distracting by other goings-on, but in a way it was nice because I lingered over it and savored it more.

Some people ask how I can read a book over and over, year after year; don't I already know what's going to happen?  Well, yes, but it's how I get there that is so enjoyable to me.  LOTR is good enough that it still evokes strong emotions in me every time I read it; whether it be Gandalf facing the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, or horns of the Rohirrim at dawn on the Pelennor Fields, I still laugh, cry, get goosebumps, and thoroughly lose myself in the story.  What could be more enjoyable?

Tolkien revealed a world that I am not alone in wishing I could visit; people all over the world have taken his masterpiece and made it an important part of their lives.

I don't really know what else to say about the book; there is so much else out there about it, anything I might have to say would probably seem meaningless.  All I can say is that I love the book and look forward to my next annual reading!

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Books: Finished LOTR.  Going to read the appendices and then it's on to Salem's Lot.

Wine: Had a Columbia Crest 2009 Riesling; thought it was a bit better than the 2008, a bit sweeter and with more structured fruit, but otherwise very similar.

Guitar: Working on "Sheep" as well as a "Study in A" classical piece and a blues study.

Writing: Past the halfway point of the first revision of the novella.  Reading it through again I am very pleased with how it came out, though I can see plenty of places for improvement.  Still, I feel like I conveyed what I wanted to convey.  So yea.

06 January 2011

The Hobbit

As mentioned previously, I've been doing my annual reading of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I finished The Hobbit back in December but have been rather busy and rather lazy about posting about it.  However, here it is.

The Hobbit is immensely enjoyable, and is in my opinion the most accessible of Tolkien's works.  It was the first of his books I was able to read, back when I was 12; when I attempted The Lord of the Rings I was in way over my head.  Still, I enjoyed The Hobbit enough that a memory of it remained, and kindled excitement when Peter Jackson's movies were released.  By then I was old enough to try reading the books, and I finally had the vocabulary (and the patience) to appreciate them.

I find it very hard to write about The Hobbit.  Bilbo Baggins feels like a friend I've known for years, and his adventures more history than story.  Perhaps others have had this feeling with fiction they have particularly embraced.

The world Tolkien revealed is rich, bountiful, and alluring - who wouldn't want to go live in the Shire in a cozy hole, with the kettle boiling?  There are times - frequent ones, if truth be told - when that thought ie beyond tempting.

It is strange how, on its own, The Hobbit is a light-hearted tale, but when added in with The Lord of the Rings it is so full of portent - though of course this comes partially from Tolkien's revision of The Hobbit after LOTR was finished.  Regardless, it shows true mastery.

The Elven tongues, which all of Tolkien's work serves as a backdrop for, are present at times in The Hobbit, though not nearly as much as in other works.  All the Dwarves' names come from the Edda, as does Gandalf's; small mention is made of Gondolin and the events of the First Age, and the three houses of the Eldar - the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri - are simply named the High Elves, the Deep Elves, and the Sea Elves.  Even Valinor is named Faerie in the tale.  That said, the sense of a tapestry of history pervades the entire story.

As a story, The Hobbit is excellent; and as a prelude to The Lord of the Rings, even more so.  I cannot praise it enough.  All I can say is that I look forward to reading it again next December!

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Books: More than halfway-through The Lord of the Rings.

Bottles: Had some Eiswein a while ago, have to find my tasting notes on it.

Writing: Still working on revisions on the novella.  It's going well.

Guitar: Working on "Astronomy Domine" as well as interval studies and some blues solos.