28 May 2014

Saxum 2008 James Berry Vineyard - Revisited

I was recently afforded the chance to revisit one of my favorite wines of all time, Saxum 2008 James Berry Vineyard.  I first encountered it at Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek, CO, with friends.  Thanks to the generosity of those same friends, who shared the bottle they bought with me, we were able to once again sample the deliciousness that is Saxum.  We decanted it and let it sit for 20 minutes or so before we couldn't wait any longer to enjoy it.

The wine was dark and inky, typical of Rhone varietals (it seems to me), and oh, the aromas!  Cinnamon!  Cloves!  Was that a hint of vanilla?  So many it was hard to settle on specifics.

At the first sip, sweet honeyed notes stole over my tongue.  It was surprisingly sweet, with powerful raison flavors on the front end that gave way to warm oakiness at the midpalate.  It was vibrant and lush, with a sharp finish - surprisingly sharp, actually.  But as the wine opened that sharpness mellowed and the tannins smoothed out into a lovely, lingering finish.

I so loved having Saxum again, especially with friends who truly appreciate it.  It was a night to remember!


Books: Nearly done with Kinslayer.  Not sure what'll be next.  Probably one of my backlog of Echoes of All Our Conversations.

Bottles: None lately.  Getting some today!

Writing: Past the 60% mark.  Hooray!

Guitar: Still looking at "Have a Cigar" and "Young Lust."  Might take a look at "Welcome to the Machine," or perhaps some songs by Young the Giant, which I have recently discovered.

24 May 2014

Nisia Verjedo 2012

What a delightful spring-time wine this was.  It was an April selection from my wine club, and it was truly lovely.

Nisia’s Verdejo was one of the palest whites I’ve drunk, just a little bit straw-colored, but seeming crystal-clear from some angles.  The nose was heavy with the smell of peaches.

The taste was sweet and tart, crisp and light, with touches of peach, floral notes, and a bit of minerality.  It was round and airy on the finish, almost effervescent.

I don’t seek out white wines very often, but I enjoy good ones when I come across them, and Nisia Verdejo definitely fit that bill.  I’ll have to pick up more when I get the chance.


Books: Finished Love Letters to the Dead a few days ago.  I cannot adequately express how much I loved it.  It's my favorite book so far this year.

Bottles: New wine club wines coming Tuesday!

Writing: Almost at the 55% mark.

Guitar: "Have a Cigar" and "Young Lust."

20 May 2014

The Death Cure by James Dashner

At last, I was able to read the last book in The Maze Runner trilogy.  I have to say it did, indeed, get better, and was probably my favorite of the three.  While I suppose it was an enjoyable read, it was not without its problems.  I find myself having a hard time saying I liked it.  Does that make sense?

One of the best parts of The Death Cure was that Thomas finally seemed to become an agent in his own destiny this book, making choices and dealing with the consequences.  Where in the previous two books he spent most of his time being acted upon, traveling down a prescribed course, this time he seemed freer to choose.  That was all to the good.

Where things fell flat for me, though, was the aftermath of his choices.  He made some really heartbreaking decisions at times, and there were so many missed chances for meaningful reflections on them.  There were so many times where I thought I was about to really feel something, but then the scene would be cut short.  Every time Thomas would make a gut-wrenching choice, the lack of subsequent emotional depth made the whole thing fall flat.  It was so frustrating and disappointing.

The Death Cure kept up the same break-neck thriller pace that its predecessors established, and actually improved on it.  I barely put the book down, it was so compelling.  But there was a serious lack of resolution, for me at least.  Character threads I wanted to be tied up were left hanging.  Beats were missing or glossed over in the mad rush to escape death.  Even in the quiet moments, scenes were rarely allowed to breath.  I’m all for brevity, but when you have a moment, you’ve got to make the most of it, not skim it over!

I think my number one problem with The Death Cure was the ending, which fell pretty squarely into deus ex machina territory to me.  BLURGH!  There were so many opportunities wasted there!

I still loved the world of The Maze Runner.  More than anything, I fell in love with what these books could have been, and I wish they had lived up to that promise.


Books: Finished The Kill Order, and I'm already quite a ways through Love Letters to the Dead.

Bottles: None lately.

Writing: I am SO CLOSE to 50%.  I will get there tonight.  I've already hit my primary goal of being less than 100,000 words.  There is a good chance I will get down to 80,000 or so, which is where I want to be.

Guitar: Starting something new tonight.  Don't know what yet.

16 May 2014

Continuum 2011

Continuum has been one of my favorite Napa wines since I was first introduced to it two years ago.  It is one of only two wineries I have ever been so compelled as to buy direct from (the other is Dashe).  This is my second vintage I've received through the mailing list, but I have had the 2008 vintage at restaurants before.

My friends and I decanted this wine to share and gave it about 15 minutes before we couldn't wait to drink it any longer.

It was a dark plum color, deep and mysterious.  The nose was full of oak and tobacco, opening up to very surprising honey notes as the wine developed.

The taste gave round, fleshy fruits on the tongue, with a strong dry backbone.  The tannins were chewy and delicious, showing the vigorous youth of the wine.  As we drank, more berry flavors shone through.  I'm sure if we'd been more patient we would have seen even more nuanced layers reveal themselves.

I can’t wait to see how the wine develops with age.  Thankfully I have two more bottles - and my friends have 3!


Books: Still nearly done with The Kill Order.

Bottles: Nothing new to report.

Writing: Hit the 40% mark today!

Guitar: Started looking at the acoustic version of "Everything is Awesome," plus revisiting some Pink Floyd favorites like "On the Turning Away."

12 May 2014

Bodegas Ordonez Tineta Avante Ribera del Duero Tempranillo 2011

The newest wine from my wine club was this delightful Spanish Tempranillo.  I love Spanish wines but haven't had much opportunity to explore them.  I rarely find much variety at restaurants and grocery stores, and even wine stores can have limited selections at times.  Thankfully, there are wine club offerings like this that remind me to try harder, dig deeper, and grab what interesting finds I can!

This wine was inky purple, with a surprisingly heavy body.

The nose was full of scents of wood, loam, and copper.  It was super earthy.  I just had the one bottle and drank it soon after getting it, but I wonder what it would have been like five years from now.

The taste of ripe cherry hit my palate first.  Tart currant followed on its heels.  That earthiness in the nose didn't seem to have much play on the tongue, and the acidity of the fruits cut through the tannins.  The finish was pretty oaky, but not particularly memorable.  Again, though, I think it would have been interesting in a few years.

Avante was a nice wine and good for a table drink.  It reminded me of the potential of Spanish wines.  But I don't think I'll be revisiting it anytime soon.  There are so many other great Spanish wines that I have liked more, and I am eager to experience more like those.


Books: Still on The Kill Order.  Nearing the end.

Bottles: Nothing new to report.

Writing: 30%!  Hooray!

Guitar: Zappa and Spinal Tap.

08 May 2014

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

So, here we are again.  The Scorch Trials is the sequel to The Maze Runner.  As promised, I did indeed get it from the library, and I did read it.  It didn’t have that urgency to it that other series have had on me - most recently, the Divergent trilogy - but it is getting better.

The Scorch Trials picks up right where The Maze Runner left off, and it keeps on running.  It still keeps that Dan Brown feel to it, that sense of moving straight from crisis to crisis - or, occasionally, to a brief respite that proves to be a lie.  If anything, the focus seems tighter than The Maze Runner did, and that’s both good and bad.

The narrow focus in The Scorch Trials gives a lot more depth to the character of Thomas, something that I felt was missing in large part from The Maze Runner.  I came to understand him better and grow fonder of him.  However, that same narrow focus also intensified the feeling of the story being on rails in some parts.

That’s not to say it was worse; in many ways, Thomas became more active in The Scorch Trials, thinking for himself and actively trying to outwit his tormentors.  This was a welcome development.  And yet, when it turns out that no matter what choice he made, the outcome would have been the same, the choice becomes less satisfying.  We know more about Thomas, and we understand the decision, but suddenly its meaning is lessened.  That’s disappointing at times.

The world Dashner built is further fleshed out in The Scorch Trials, and to me it was one of the book’s great successes.  The world is compelling and chilling.  Despite the occasional frustration - with the book, with the plot, with the characters - it drew me in and held me.

The Scorch Trials is a book that I really want to love, and yet all I can do is like it.  I don’t think that’s necessarily bad.  After all, there’s no accounting for taste, as they say, and that goes both ways.  It just doesn’t align with my taste as well as other books, but I think it has fine qualities and I will indeed be reading the next book, which is apparently The Death Cure, though there is also a prequel called The Kill Order which I requested as well, since I couldn’t tell at first which was supposed to be the next one.


Books: Reading The Kill Order.  Then Love Letters to the Dead.

Bottles: Ovid 2008.

Writing: Over 25% done!

Guitar: Same.

03 May 2014

Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carmenere 2012

What an interesting wine.  The Casa Silva Carmenere came from the same Wine Club batch as the Graffito Malbec, and it is very similar and yet very different.

My previous experiences with Carmenere have been limited, but the few I have encountered have been bold and tannic, with plenty of oak to supplement the fruit.  Whether that is typical or not, I haven’t yet gained the breadth of experience to tell.

What I can say is that the Casa Silva bucked that trend.  It was a deep crimson color with a fine heft to its body, and scents of sour cherry and bay leaf on the nose.

The taste was what surprised me.  It was fruity, jammy even, and smooth.  Surprisingly smooth.  Time on the palate revealed a surprising depth to it, gradually giving way to extremely mild tannins on the backend.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of the wine.  It was so very different.  And yet, it was pleasant.  It made an excellent companion to the Graffito, which defied my expectations as well.

Between the Casa Silva and the Graffito, my interest in South American wines has been renewed.  I need to keep my eyes peeled for more off-the-beaten-path wineries and explore their offerings.  There are no doubt more exciting, genre-defying bottles out there to enjoy.


Books: Finished Why Buildings Fall Down and The Covenant of Primus.  Next up is The Kill Order.

Bottles: Nothing since my last.

Writing: Passed the 20% mark!  Hooray!

Guitar: Looking at some Frank Zappa.