31 March 2014

2010 Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon “Anniversary Cuvee”

My friends and I went to 360 Bistro in Nashville, Tennessee for a nice dinner to commemorate the end of a week of work there.  I had selected it based on its Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.  After perusing their impressive list, we settled on the Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon.  I’d never had Tor before, but the To Kalon vineyard is highly praised every time it’s mentioned in Wine Spectator, so we all agreed it was the one to try.

Justin, the Sommelier, brought the wine to us, along with Riedel Sommelier’s Collection Gran Cru Bordeaux glasses and an Amadeo decanter.  What a presentation!  After tasting to make sure the bottle was good - and it was - he decanted it for us before serving it.

The wine was a beautiful purple color.  It sounds strange to say, but it was the color of grape skins - something I don’t often encounter.

The nose was full of heady orchard aromas - apple blossoms and tilled earth.

The taste was immensely complex: bracing berries, cool mint, a spicy finish, with tannins woven throughout to smooth the journey from one taste to another.

I went in expecting something great, but what I got was something magical.  Tor wasn’t on my map before - it was overshadowed by Schrader, which also makes wines from the To Kalon vineyard - but it certainly is now.

All four of us at dinner got 360 Bistro’s filet mignon.  It did not disappoint, in taste, preparation, or in excellent pairing with the Tor.  A truly magical meal, followed by one of the greatest things to ever happen to me...


Books: Reading Dave Cullen's Columbine.  Riveting.

Bottles: Got two new selections from the wine club today.  Yea!

Writing: 20 pages away from the end of revisions.  I have been doing them with pen and paper, so next is entering all the revisions into the draft on the computer.  I expect it will go much more quickly.

Guitar: Same as last time: "Comfortably Numb" and "Rock and Roll Creation."

27 March 2014

Domaine de la Vieux Telegraph La Crau (Rouge) 2010

I was fortunate (or foolish) enough to procure 5 bottles of Domaine du Vieux Telegraph’s La Crau 2010 Rouge.  This is the second bottle I’ve shared.

The wine was a deep maroon, with a toasty, slaty nose.  It had that Rhone character that I love - it’s hard to characterize, but it feels homey.  Like going to a little cottage somewhere.

The wine was chewy, and drier than I expected.  The fruit gave way to the tannins quickly - more quickly than I was expecting.  This is a Rhone wine of grace and power - meant to age.  I will definitely be giving my other bottles much more time.  I think I will also try decanting a bottle to see how it develops.

Telegraph’s La Crau is especially significant to me.  When my very first wine store, The Wine Cellar, closed, the 2006 La Crau was the last bottle I bought - I asked for something special to really remember the store, and La Crau was what was suggested.  It was an excellent suggestion and La Crau holds a very special place in my heart.


Books: Only one chapter left in Paddle Your Own Canoe.

Bottles: Nothing since Nashville.  Still have a backlog of notes to share!

Writing: Excellent progress.

Guitar: Started looking at "Rock and Roll Creation" and the PULSE version of "Comfortably Numb."

23 March 2014

Ramey Claret 2007

I'd been sitting on this bottle of Ramey Claret for a few years now - I only have one bottle of 2007 Napa left, and it's my Chappellet Signature that I'm saving for a special occasion.

I've had the 2006 Ramey Claret before.  You can see my reflections on it here.

The 2007 was a beautiful garnet color.  It was light in the glass - not as heavy as a pure Cabernet.

The 2007 seemed meatier than I remember the 2006 being, with hints of smoke on the nose - but still that powerful fruit.

The tannins were more refined, too, and helped harmonize the acidity, which was almost tart, with heavy currant accents.

I wish I had a larger supply of this and the 2006.  It would be interesting to drink them side by side.  Sadly my supply of verticals is almost nonexistent, nor do I have the fortitude to make it through more than one bottle of wine on my own.

Regardless, I loved the 2007 Ramey Claret, and my friends did, too.  This was the follow-up to the bottle of Ovide en Cerise we drank earlier that night.


Books: Finished The Maze Runner, and almost done with Paddle Your Own Canoe.  Not sure what's in store next - that will depend on the library.  I do have three more volumes of Echoes of All Our Conversations.  I might spend some time with one of them.

Bottles: Oh, man.  2010 Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon "Anniversary Cuvee."  And then a taste of 1983 Chateau Margaux.  Yes, the real deal.  

Writing: I made a lot of progress the past week on revisions.  I'm feeling pretty good.

Guitar: I was gone in Nashville and didn't get to touch my guitars.  Sad face.

20 March 2014

Ovide en Cerise 2009

A bottle!  It's been so long since I've written about one.

Ovide en Cerise comes from K Vintners, one of my favorites.  They're mostly known for their single-vineyard Syrahs, like K Pheasant Vineyards and K Wahluke Slope.  They make many other amazing wines, though, including The Boy (a unique and delicious Grenache), Roma en Chamberlin, and, of course, Ovide en Cerise.

Ovide is a blend of Cabernet and Syrah (67/33).  It's a beautiful blood-red color in the glass, dark and mysterious.  The nose is full of potent berry and mineral notes, along with hints of licorice and bay.  I'm a huge fan of K's Syrahs, but the addition of Cabernet definitely adds a different sort of power to this wine. 

The taste - so very much red fruits.  The tannins were chewy, not woodsy like I was expecting from the smell.  Ovide displayed a kind of raisiny, dried-fruit character on the finish.  Surprisingly succulent.

I shared this bottle of Ovide with my good friends to belatedly celebrate their birthdays.  We enjoyed it with cheese and Italian cured meats - both delicious, and the wine stood up to the salty goodness quite well.

I quite enjoyed Ovide en Cerise.  I wish I had more.


Books: Nearly done with Paddle Your Own Canoe, and I've started The Maze Runner.

Bottles: The above.  I am going to a wine bar later this week for some new adventures, plus I have a couple bottles with me here in Nashville that may need enjoyment: 2010 Telegraph La Crau (rouge) and 2009 Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel.  Neither are new to me, but this level of cellaring is new.  Exciting!

Writing: Proceeding apace with the edit.  I'm getting more and more ruthless.  I think I am on track to hit my goal of 90,000 - maybe even 80,000.

Guitar: "One of These Days" still.  I am loving the lap steel.

10 March 2014

On Forgiveness and Redemption - Further Thoughts on Divergent (Spoilers)

Be warned, the following contains spoilers.

After taking a few days to think about Divergent, I have some conclusions I thought were worth sharing. If nothing else, writing them out has helped me make some sense of them.
For me, Divergent's most interesting character was Caleb Prior. That may seem strange - after all, we never get any chapters from his point-of-view, and he spends most of the trilogy as an antagonist. Despite that, I felt like I understood him better than any other character.

A big part of that is just personal context. I myself have a sister who is three years older than me. However, she's had a number of medical setbacks over the last twelve years or so, and in that time our relationship has changed. I am now the protective one, the more mature one, and the one with more life experience. Caleb is less than a year older than Tris, but even so, I identify with him as an older-brother-type.

Bear with me. I really am going somewhere with all this.

Caleb is smart - not only that, but he knows he is smart, and chooses to join the Erudite faction. I too think of myself as smart. I don't know how to say that without sounding arrogant, but statistically speaking, I was in something like the 98th percentile of the national ACT average score (I got a 31) and that was on my first try, without studying for it.

One of the bad things about being smart - something that Divergent touches on - is the arrogance that goes along with it. When you tell yourself you're smarter than everyone around you, you start thinking you know what's better for them, too. You become able to justify all sorts of poor behavior. Caleb listens to Jeanine Matthews, and he decides to betray his family - his sister - because he convinces himself it's for the greater good. And in doing so, he hurts those who love him most.

I've done the same thing, though thankfully never to such a terrible degree. But I've hurt people without meaning to, just because I was convinced of my own cleverness. And I've tried to weasel out of facing the consequences using my wit to justify what were essentially poor choices.

What does all this have to do with forgiveness and redemption? You have to know what you've done wrong before you can have either.

Forgiveness and redemption are closely related, and yet, to my mind, discrete. It seems to me that forgiveness is something you are given, while redemption is something you have to search for yourself. What does Merriam-Webster have to say on the subject?

forgive (v): to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong); to stop blaming (someone)
redeem (v): to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable

So much of the Divergent trilogy centers on how Tris handles her own guilt: guilt about shooting will; survivor's guilt; guilt for lying; guilt for so many of her choices. For simplicity, let's focus on her guilt about Will, the friend she killed in self-defense. It's a crippling guilt, one that drives her to a suicidal recklessness. Does she want forgiveness, or redemption?

I would argue that she wants both, but they have to come from different places. She takes her first steps towards earning forgiveness when she admits to what she has done. Though it invites the hatred of her friend (and Will's love) Christina, plus Will's sister Cara, the honesty she shows - and the sincere remorse - are the only things she has to give. Once that's done, she has to wait for Christina and Cara to decide to forgive or not.

She seeks redemption for it, too, but here is where she goes astray: she believes that throwing herself into danger, risking death, will make up for what she has done. It's an understandable impulse in her case: raised to value selflessness above all, and indoctrinated to value bravery above all, the combination is a volatile one. Only when she truly faces her own death does she realize she doesn't truly want to die. She wants to go on living.

Here is where she finds redemption, then: in living for what she believes, in honoring Will's memory, and in punishing those who were responsible for the situation that killed him.

Caleb is at a serious disadvantage. Tris had to apologize for what she had done, but apologies don't come easy when you're used to justifying everything you do in the light of "the greater good." When you know best, you can throw away things like loyalty and family, because the net gain will exceed the net loss.

Despite his betrayal, Tris gets Tobias to rescue Caleb from execution, and in doing so comes face to face with the brother she both loves and loathes. Caleb, too, comes face to face with the sister who was tortured before him while he did nothing to stop it.

How do you apologize for something like that? A hurt so bad that sorry is less than inadequate. And all the while, you are also faced with your own fallibility.

I do believe Caleb knew what he was doing was wrong. Otherwise why would he feel so guilty about it? And yet he's spent his life convinced that he can do no wrong, and so he wastes his words with empty excuses, avoiding taking any blame for himself.

He does, finally, admit to the mistake he's made. It's in a roundabout way - he never actually says he's sorry, that I can recall - but he does finally admit to Tris that he would do anything to be free of the guilt he feels.

He volunteers to sacrifice himself in the plan to save Chicago's residents from being mind-wiped, in exchange for Tris's forgiveness. You can't barter for forgiveness, of course; but at least the specter of death gives more haste to the process. Tris finds she can, in fact, forgive him - and in fact, sacrifices herself to save him.

We don't ever see Caleb get his redemption. When he delivers Tris's last message to Tobias, he admits he doesn't know why Tris saved him. Only when he truly understands that will he have found redemption.


So that was long and blathering. I don't know if anyone will find any value in this, but I thought it was worth thinking about and worth writing about.

In other news, I had two exquisite bottles of wine last night: 2007 Ramey Claret and 2009 K Vintners Ovide en Cerise. I made sure to take actual tasting notes so I can get back to writing about the Bottles!

07 March 2014

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

It's been a while.  In December I decided it would be fun to re-read all of Harry Potter.  Brilliant, of course, except that spilled over into January...and then into February, too.

So, 10 books later (if one counts Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), I am finally back into reading new books.

I don't get through books as quickly as I used to, with my current work schedule; I used to do two a week and now I'm lucky to do two a month.  I picked up Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe in December from a White Elephant party and finally started reading it the last week of February.

In the midst of this came Divergent.  It's been getting a lot of hype right now, with the film adaptation coming out in a few weeks, and I like to stay ahead of the culture curve when it comes to YA stuff (as long as it doesn't involve vampires, which I find tiresome...but anyhoo...).  I would like to say it's for "market research," and it sort of is, as it's good to see what else is out there as I work on my own YA story.  But that said, I find myself frequently drawn into YA fiction in a way I am rarely drawn into adult fiction.  I don't know if it's because it addresses a part of me and my inner child that adult fiction doesn't; or because of the frequent use of first person narrative, which can allow a deeper connection with the characters; or something else entirely.  That's a whole other blog post.  In fact, I am almost certain I've pondered this very notion before...

Indeed, after perusing my own archives, I find that I mentioned this attraction obliquely in my response to The Fault in Our Stars...ironically, also soon to be a major motion picture, and with some significant casting overlaps.  Providence?

Anyway, suffice it to say, Divergent absorbed me quite completely, such that I finished it, Insurgent, and Allegiant in 6 days.

Devouring books like that is something that happens to me only rarely.  It's both extremely rewarding and extremely exhausting.  When I immerse myself in a world so enthusiastically, it becomes hard to disengage once it's all done.  I find myself revisiting favorite passages, and trying to suss out meaning I didn't have time to ponder before.

Clearly, then, I loved Divergent and its sequels.  How much is too much to say?  I do hate spoilers, so I will try me best to be spoiler free.

Divergent is set in a dystopian version of Chicago.  Year: unknown.  The people have been divided into factions that value one particular virtue above all others: selflessness, intelligence, bravery, peace, and honesty.  At 16, you choose: stay where you were born or join a different faction.  Of course, like any system, it has outsiders.  Some are those who, for one reason or another, don't stay in their faction.  In such a system, it follows that those who can't fit into it become second-class citizens.

Other outsiders are those who are (title plug!) "divergent," and can belong to multiple factions.

The story snowballs from there, following 16-year-old Beatrice Prior as the discovers threats to her world from within, without, and even its own dark past.

There's been a lot of comparison to The Hunger Games.  I think that's inevitable, but unfortunate.  Then again, The Hunger Games was compared to Twilight ad infinitum, and those two are a lot father apart.

There are similarities.  Dystopian futures.  Female protagonists.  Violence.

But here is what I found interesting.  The Hunger Games seemed to me very much focused on the cost of violence when it's thrust upon essentially ordinary people.  We see Katniss dehumanized.  We see her suffer from PTSD.  We see her nightmares, and we see how it destroys her life.

In Divergent, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the faction focused on bravery.  She trains for violence.  She is desensitized to it.  And so its consequences on her are different.  We see her guilt over the lives she has taken.  We see her rationalizations.  She is a different person from Katniss, and that makes Divergent a different series from The Hunger Games in the most important way.

One of the things that hit me most about Divergent was its theme of forgiveness.  Maybe it's my own bias that I saw so much of it in there, but I don't think so.  Forgiving others.  Forgiving yourself.  So much of the trilogy was wrapped in questions about how to forgive, and why, and when, and what it truly means.  Where is the line between redemption and forgiveness?  Is there one?  Are they the same, linked, or separate?  Divergent had me thinking about that more than anything else.

I find myself out of things to coherently write about Divergent.  I loved every second of it and hope, quite vehemently, that Into the Shining Sun can affect even one person as strongly as Divergent affected me.  I think that would be a win.


Books: Working on Paddle Your Own Canoe.  I still have two volumes of Echoes of All Our Conversations, and I have few things on hold at the library.  We'll see what comes first.

Bottles: Ordered 2011 Continuum yesterday.  Can't wait!  I've had several amazing bottles recently, including 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvingon Blanc.  I have been remiss in reviewing them - I've been using an app called Delectable to catalog my wine drinking.  I have to get back to making notes and posting reviews.

Writing: 75% done with this round of revisions.  I've been seriously pondering cutting the entire first chapter for the last day or two.  We'll see.

Guitar: Working on "One of These Days" (by Pink Floyd, not Foo Fighters).  I love love love my lap steel.