31 August 2011

Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes

The third wine I enjoyed at Grouse Mountain Grill was Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes, a half-bottle I chose to enjoy with our dessert course.  This was my first foray into Sauternes, and it did not disappoint.
The wine was a rich honey color, like liquid gold almost, with an intensely syrupy nose.  I found the taste to be incredibly like eating the best French toast with maple syrup, though there was a spicy backdrop to it.  The finish lasted on a honey note for a long, long time - so much so that the other diners commented on it as well!
Our table enjoyed it with several different desserts - apple bread pudding, flourless chocolate cake, bay-leaf ice cream...it matched well with all of them.  It was a great way to cap off the night.


Books: Reading The Genius Factory by David Plotz.  Finished Squirrel Seeking Chipmunk.

Bottles: Not lately.

Writing: Beginning on second draft!

Guitar: Revisiting "Young Lust."

27 August 2011

La Cana 2009 Albarino

Grouse Mountain Grill holds a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, and I availed myself of several bottles when I dined there.  One was the previously posted Saxum 2008 James Berry Vineyard, which was in fact the second of the three wines; the first was La Cana 2009 Albarino.
Pale golden in color, it displayed a nose of honey, floral, grapefruit, and a slight mineral, almost metallic, tang to it.  It had a tingly acidity and a light body.  Flavor-wise, citrus dominated, with grapefruit as well as lemon peel showing up.  That lemon peel note lingered on the finish.
Albarino is one of my go-to whites when serving a crowd - I have yet to find anyone that didn’t like it.  It is impeccably balanced across all dimensions and lends itself well to both new wine drinkers and old ones alike.
I enjoyed the bottle with the bread course and a spring greens salad, which had fried goat cheese beignets in it.  It was truly an amazing combination, bringing out the savory sweetness of the goat cheese, cleansing the palate while at the same time insisting there was more to come.


Books: Nearing the end of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.

Bottles: Nothing since returning from Colorado.

Writing: Have a meeting tomorrow to discuss my first draft of Into the Shining Sun with friends.  Starting on second draft on Monday.

Guitar: Just got back yesterday night, so plenty of time to practice in the coming week.

25 August 2011

Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2008

At Grouse Mountain Grill in Avon, Colorado, I happened to have the chance to drink a bottle of Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2008, a Paso Robles Rhone blend that had been at the top of my list of wines to try. Saxum wines are very hard to come by - most of their sales are out-the-door, and someone has to die to even get on the waiting list!

The bottle.

Wine Director Bill Minett managed to source two bottles of the 2008 vintage for the restaurant.  I don't know when the first bottle was consumed, but I got the second.  About 45 minutes after I ordered the bottle, another table came in and ordered the same, and was informed by our waiter that we had already had the last bottle.

The wine was aerated and decanted for us, as the 2008 was still quite young.  I wish I could have enjoyed it cellared, but as Mr. Minett himself said, everyone was drinking them young because they are so hard to get hold of!

Watching the decanting I was able to take in the intense ruby color of the wine, but the true experience began once the wine was poured.

The last sip.
It had a heady aroma, oaky and fruity, and truly quite intense.  And oh, the taste!  Even after aeration it was still youthful and vibrant, but this did not detract from the wine, it gave it life.  It had strong berry flavors, beautiful, smooth tannins, and a clean, clear finish.

The wine was super-assertive, easily overpowering the tenderloin I enjoyed it with, but I don't care - it was heaven!  That said, I happened to taste my friend's duck sausage with the wine, and it actually was a  very good pairing.

Drinking this bottle was a dream come true.  My thanks to Mr. Minett who was patient with us and posed for the photos we took of the bottle and the experience.  He seemed to enjoy getting to share the experience with us.  To my great shame I forgot to offer him a taste as well, I was too overwhelmed with the experience.  I shall be sending him a thank you card though.  It was a truly incredible experience.


Books: Rereading The Hunger Games, trying to glean what I can from the books about how to successfully portray the future I am trying to depict.

Bottles: Five in the course of two days here in Colorado!  The above, of course, as well as La Cana 2009 Albarino, Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes, Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009, and Franciscan Estate 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Writing: Taking copious notes on Into the Shining Sun, seeing where I want it to go.  Also need to make a map of the house to make sure I am consistent with sunlight!

Guitar: Being that the guitar is in Kansas City, I have not had much chance to play lately.

19 August 2011

David Plotz's Good Book

My latest read was David Plotz's Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible.  I had been intrigued by the book after hearing of it while incidentally undertaking my own reading of the King James Bible from cover to cover, although David Plotz only reads the Old Testament, and a different translation.

I became interested in reading the King James Bible because it's so often cited as one of the two pillars of western literature, along with Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Plotz, on the other hand, chose to do it to examine the roots of his culture and faith, though the latter was, by his own admission, lackluster.

Being an atheist but having Jewish friends, I enjoyed reading about how the Bible intersected with his faith and culture, and I felt a better understanding not only of Plotz but of my own friends.  He often talked about the "messy Bible" - that what is written, what is really on the page, is so much more complicated than the versions that we remember from popular culture or even from Sunday school.  Characters Plotz once thought of as heroes suddenly had far darker undertones.

Reading the Old Testament, Plotz felt, much as I did, that the God depicted in it was, far from being a reverential figure, a rather awful one.  I think Stewie Griffin best summed up God when he said "I love God, he's so deliciously evil!"  That God is far more often vindictive and cruel, and even genocidal, than he is kind or merciful.

Plotz also remarked a great deal on how much of our literary and linguistic heritage comes from the Bible, frequently mentioning both his own translation as well as the King James one.

All in all, I enjoyed Good Book, but I find it hard to write very much about it.  So much of it felt so in sync with my own thoughts after reading the Bible, I find it hard to differentiate between my reaction to the Bible and my reaction to Plotz reading the Bible.

It was a good read, and I look forward to reading the other book I got from him, which is The Genius Factory, but I won't be reading that quite yet.


Books: Finished Good Book.  Up next is Squirrels Seeking Chipmunk.

Bottles: Nothing new lately, but hopefully I will have some new experiences when I go to Vail, Colorado.

Writing: I've been very intent on Into the Shining Sun.  I finished the first draft and have been rereading it before starting in on revisions after talking with my writing group about it on 28 August.

Guitar: I have sadly been practicing less than I should, since Into the Shining Sun has consumed so much of my creative energy lately.  That said, still working on "Pigs," also revisiting several songs from The Wall.

06 August 2011

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy

Well, it's been quite a while since I felt I had anything to report.  I had about a month's worth of periodicals to catch up on and haven't really had much new wine to report on either.  I read TS Eliot's The Wasteland, but I can't say it had much of an impact on me.  Poetry has never been my strong suit, although I have enjoyed several of Tennyson's works.

Anyway, after having my curiosity piqued by an article in Entertainment Weekly, I ended up checking out The Hunger Games from the library.  I confess I had moderate to somewhat-low expectations of the book, given its numerous comparisons to Twilight, but the article described the book taking place in a sociopolitical landscape that sounded fascinating, and it seemed the book examined a wide range of issues, from political oppression to reality television.

I am happy to say that I was very wrong in thinking little of the book, and its two sequels, as they all three blew me away.  After reading the first, I was able to wait about a day for the library to get the next one in, before giving in and buying the ebook version from the Kindle store (although I admittedly read it on the Kindle app for my iPad - full disclosure).  The books were rich in detail, creating a fully realized world, memorable characters, a complicated (but not convoluted) plot, and, most important of all, real, relatable human emotion.

First off, the world.  Well, I was immediately struck by how Suzanne Collins extrapolated the United States (and North America at large) into the future, imagining a decline for its civilization no different from that of the Roman Empire, something alluded to both directly - she got the name for the new nation, Panem, from the Latin "panem et circenses" or "bread and circuses," [which also happens to be a name of an episode of Star Trek for those of you keeping count] - and indirectly, as she draws names for the characters from the decadent Capitol from Roman myth and history - brothers Castor and Pollux, Gamemaster Seneca Crane (Seneca being a Roman playwright of no small repute), Cinna the stylist (poet Cinna was murdered for having the same name as another Cinna, who took part in the assassination of Ceasar - at least, according to some sources, but perhaps made most famous by Shakespeare), the list goes on and on.  I apologize, by the way, for the parentheticals.  It has been a long while since I've been so affected and excited by a book, so I am rambling.

Beyond the Roman allusions, there is also a large influence of the modern world on the books, most notable perhaps in the idea of the Hunger Games, a game in which 24 children are pitted to the death as the ultimate form of reality television.  Some of the most vivid imagery comes from the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen's, experiences in said Games.

Speaking of characters, Katniss was a compelling protagonist, both empathetic and sympathetic - though for me, as a man, I occasionally found her misinterpretation of the various male characters' psychologies to be frustrating.  Well, all the more likely it's an accurate portrayal of a woman's viewpoint, I suppose.  The first-person perspective, used entirely throughout, was very successful to me, and I never once wanted a wider viewpoint - Collins was excellent at creating plausible, and often compelling, reasons for Katniss to know things she couldn't have witnessed, and we very rarely hear a character recap "what happened to me" - though on the few occasions we do, she manages to make it a scene of power rather than an infodump.

I would be remiss in talking about the characters without talking about the two male characters vying for Katniss's affections, Peeta and Gale.  Both were fully realized, similar in some ways and opposite in other ways, and I could understand Katniss's affection for both.  Perhaps adult readers like myself can understand far better than Katniss could herself.  Despite what could be construed as "teen romance," Collins in fact depicts very real, universal problems of love, culminating in a validation of what I consider the most important part of love - that the one you love should always bring out the best in you.  Collins lets Katniss learn the lesson herself, the same way everyone has to: the hard way.  It was here that I found the comparisons to Twilight most dubious, for I found this to be the opposite of the philosophy espoused in Twilight, where, it seemed to me at least, that the main character's love brought out only the most selfish impulses in her.  Then again, The Hunger Games truly starts when Katniss steps up to play in the games in order to spare her own younger sister, so perhaps it's inevitable that anyone else seems selfish by comparison...but I don't think it's just me that found Twilight rather lacking in insight.

The Hunger Games were the first books I've read since The Wheel of Time that made me feel something, deeply and truly, and that is what makes books worth reading to me.  I hope others will find them so as well.  I also hope that the film adaptation manages to retain Collins' vision, because I believe it is her unique voice and insight into the world that make the books ring so true.


Books: Was totally absorbed by The Hunger Games, and caught off my guard, as it were, by them.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.  I've got a few things coming from the library soon, as well as Tom Sawyer started on my iPad.

Bottles: Picked up some old favorites lately, like Chappellet Signature 2008, but nothing new yet.  I go to Colorado in two weeks, and will hopefully get to experience something new there.

Guitar: Working on "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" - parenthetical not mine.  Also looking at Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Writing: As of this, 93% complete with the first draft of the prose version of Into the Shining Sun.  I have some ideas already of where I want the second draft to go; I can't decide if I want to immediately dive in to the second draft or let this one ferment a little, and let my friends read it.  It's been a long time since I had something to share.