Short Sips #3

This week I must confess I’ve been more concerned about enjoying wine that reading or writing about it.  A little bit of writer’s block. Or maybe I’ve simply been unwilling to flog English grammar.

I did read a nice story by Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator Magazine “The $20 Challenge”.  It was nice to see a wine writer writing about wines that us mere mortals can afford.  Some writers idea of affordable is $50.  Matt went back to his youth, did some inflation adjusting math and picked some winners at or below $20.00.  Yes, my sweet spot.  Unfortunately armed with Wine Searcher I went hunting for the recommended wines and found NOTHING! Which is one reason I gave up on Wine Spectator because I could never find any of the wines or at least the affordable ones anywhere near me.

So, with a party planned for Friday night and dinner planned for Saturday night I felll back on my one tried and true buddy TOTAL WINE.

img_2789First winner was Double Black a Zinfandel from Paso Robles.  This was a $12 bottle that tasted like $25 and I kid you not!  The color was BLACK.  The aroma was dark fruit and spice. Flavor was of that same dark fruit and yes a little spice.  Long satisfying finish.  For me the nose was the thing that drew me into the wine.  Others at the party agreed this was a winner.

Second winner was Monte Clavijo 2014 tempranillo-garnacha rose.  I love img_2788rose wine.  But this wine was selected for the ladies.   At $8.99 a bottle this wine was batting well above its pay grade.  It accomplish exactly what I wanted it to do great taste, food friendly low tannins.  I enjoyed the last of the bottle with a bowl of venison chilli, and let me tell you the combo was fantastic.  Again this was a Total Wine selection.

My recommendation is get to Total Wine before these are gone. If you don’t have a Total Wine you might be able to find these.  Great taste, great value and a big hit at a party.  Trust me you will be a hero.

Faith #MWWC31

Faith that goes forward triumphs.

I don’t know what was on the top 100 list for Wine Spectator in Biblical times, but I am certain that wine was a necessity more than a luxury for daily living, because the water could kill you.  And because wine  was so common and so daily it took on many metaphors in Religion which are as timeless as all the other stories in the Bible whatever value you subscribe to them in your own life.

Wine has positive and negative positions to play. On the positive side wine was a symbol of divine grace, intimate love.  Owning a vineyard was a symbol of being one of the chosen people. Wine was a blessing as early as Genesis 14:18.  The being of the Messianic age will be a time when god’s people will “plant vineyards and drink wine”.

On the negative side drinking wine to the “dregs” and getting drunk was a symbol of God’s wrath, and Jesus refers to this same cup which he himself will have to drink from.  The winepress is also a symbol of judgement where the wicked are crushed. Wine was a”mocker” and a “brawler” and a way for the unwise to be lead astray.  But it is also represents joy, celebration, and a way of expressing abundant blessings from God.

Okay, how do we reconcile these two points of view?  FAITH!

When correctly read the Bible and most other religious books are pretty simple.  They are a prescription for  a happy life.  Easy to follow and if you believe what you read (HAVING FAITH)is  inflatable!  Here’s the prescription; read this book, follow the rules, trust me, you’ll have an abundant life, don’t follow the rules don’t listen to me and you’ll have a hang over the likes you have never experienced before.  I defy anyone to prove me wrong on this.

Let me give you an example;  At the wedding in Canaan, Jesus turned water into wine, not just wine, but good wine.   What was required?  Faith!  He made a great wine, the right amount for the number of people in attendance to enjoy themselves, no one lost control, no reports of anyone being poured onto a donkey and set home in disgrace.

Let me give you another example: Isaiah 5:11-13  Ah, you who rise early in the morning in pursuit of strong drink, who linger in the evening to be inflamed by wine, whose feast consist of lyre, harp, tambourine and flute and wine, but who do not regard the deeds of the Lord or see the works of his hands.  What’s at fault here the wine or not regarding the deeds of the Lord?  Not to mention putting wine on you cheeros.  Were they following the prescription? Nah.

Here’s the prescription “ Blessed are thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine. I think it would be hard to abuse wine if you kept this in mind when you drink.

John 15:1-5 I am the true vine and my father is the winegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.  Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides by the vine.  It’s all about respecting the doctor’s prescription.

Up until now we have been talking theory.  As we all know to “have faith” we have to stand up, gird up our loins, walk out of the temple and go do something. James 2:14-26  “faith without works is dead”.  

Enter the farmer.  And for all the glory of being a vintner entails, in the end they are still just farmers, or rely very heavily on farmers.  Like the song says, “they plow the fields and scatter the good seeds on the land, but it is feed a water by God’s almighty hand”.  Yes, we have come a long way in the science of agriculture and viniculture, but we are still at the mercy of terroir.  Every vintage is a leap of faith.

Now maybe I’m getting a bit too biblical and preachy.  I apologize.  Let me try this “Great wine requires a madman to grow the wine, a wise man to watch over it, a poet to make it, and a lover to drink it”.  Salvador Dali

Each of those examples are parts of having faith.   Madness is a good way describe the condition of a person who absolutely believes in something they can’t see or touch, but know in their heart is true. You have to have deep wisdom to stick with what you believe with only flashes of evidence you are heading in the right direction.  Only a poet could describe what it is you are trying to do and for what reason.  It takes Love to appreciate all  of it.

Am I stretching things to  make a point?  I don’t think so.  Wine has always been associated with the sacred.  Faith is many things to many people, even to be a scientist you have to have faith.

From bread and wine, we got faith and generosity, and those are good things to ponder over a glass of wine.

A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, great faith will bring heaven to your soul!Charles H. Spurgeon

Sherry

You are soooo lucky this isn’t a audio blog.  Because I’d be doing my best Sherry, Sherry baby…, by the Four Seasons and the dogs would howling and the cats running for cover.

img_2765We touched on this before, my singing?  No, that some places are so identified with the wines produced there that the wine and the place become synonymous.  Champagne in France. Port in Portugal. Chianti from Chianti.  Sherry is the wine of southern Spain.

Now when most people think of people drinking Sherry, they think of nice little old ladies, with funny hats and lace gloves.  Which is a hoot to the folks in Jerez Spain where the good Sherry’s are made.  There it is the drink of Spanish men; manly men, bullfighting, cigar smoking, big mustaches, guitar playing, flamenco stomping, macho men!  Ole’!

Wine was introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC.  Of course we had the Romans, a post would not be complete without mentioning the Romans. Then we had the Moors conquered Spain around 711 AD and they brought the technology of distillation and the practice of fortifying wine with brandy.  And some people don’t like the Muslims?  Did you know that Sherry style wines have traditionally been made in Iran?   Don’t tell the Mullah’s.

Christopher Columbus took sherry on his voyage to the new world which would make sherry the first wine drank in the new world.  And when Magellan sailed around the world, he took more sherry than gunpowder. Drake made sherry big in England after he sacked Cadiz in 1587.  The UK is the largest market for sherry and many of the styles of sherry were developed for the Brits.

Three white grapes can be used in making sherry; Moscatel, Pedro Ximenez, but most often the grapes is Palomino.  Now they do love horses in Spain but the grape is not named after the horse, it’s named for Ferman Yanes Palomino the thirteenth century knight to King Alfonso X.  They were the king’s wine supplier.

There are two broad categories; “fino” type which are light, dry and crisp, and the “oloroso” type which are fuller bodied darker in color, nutty and sometimes sweet.  Under these categories there are seven styles of sherry ranging from bone dry to super sweet.

Under the “fino” flag we have Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, adn Palo Cortado.  On the “Oloroso” banner we have Oloroso, Cream and Pedro Ximenez:

Manzanilla delicate, crisp, and a little salty.  Once open drink within two days

Fino very pale and dry serve well chilled

Amontillado is an aged fino deeper colors and more nutty taste.

Palo Cortado rare, dry aged for a long time.

Oloroso  long aged and exposed to oxygen, nutty flavor very  rare.

Cream crafted for the British and export market sweeten with a large amount of Pedro Ximenez. Want a great cocktail mix equal parts of Cream sherry with Campari vermouth serve over ice  with a twist of lemon, definitely Giffy recommended.

Pedro Ximenez dark, dense and super sweet.

Sherry has a vocabulary that is unique to itself.  Each style of sherry has its own “solera” which is a process of blending wine of different ages similar to what they do with champagne and port. Solare in Spanish means on the ground which means the oldest barrels are the lowest.  This process is a story  on it’s own.  Very labor intensive.

Flor is a yellow foam in a barrel of sherry.  The sherry solera is only filled about three quarters to allow room for the flor.  It’s cause by Saccharomyces yeast and bloom spontaneously.  It means flower.  This flor taken to other places in the world dies or mutates assuring the sherry can be made in only one place in the world.  Flor is critical Fino and Manzanilla sherry.  Flor protects the sherry from oxidation.  If the Flor does not develop the sherry is destine to be Oloroso.

Almacenistas are individuals  often doctors, lawyers and businessmen who own family soleras.  Some of the major manufacturers of sherry today were once Almacenistas.  Some of these family sherries are now being brought to market.  These wines are not necessarily better but they are unique!

Something I learned about vermouth, port and Sherry, just because they are fortified wines once open they will not last forever, usually depending on the wine  couple of days to four months.  They should be refrigerated after opening.  Like vermouth you can buy sherries in half bottles.

Our wine is Lustau East India Solera Sherry.  The monicar “EAST INDIA”  goes back to the 16th Century where trading ships sailing to the “Indies” would lash sherry barrels to the decks as ballast.  What they found was sailing through the tropics with the high heat and high humidity gave the sherry a smoother texture.  Today they recreate this effect in a special aging room with high heat and humidity.  The wine is a cream style.  A blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.  Color is a dark amber.  You’ll taste brown sugar, maple syrup, beer nuts and spice raisins.  I love the wine.  I tried it as an aperitif, sipped it after my meal, made cocktails with it and have sat in the dark watching the fire on a snowy night and liked that the best.  For under $20 this wine is a great find.

 

Should robots pay income tax?

This is a follow up post to “Robots of Nappa” Post.  This question is raised by none other than Bill Gates.  No he did not respond to my blog, I’m pretty sure Bill doesn’t know I’m alive.  No, I read his comments in a newsfeed called Quartz, whichI didn’t know existed until I read the Bill Gates story.  

Gates position is this, if a robot takes your job, the owner of the robot should  pay the income tax on the value of the labor being done.  At first I thought, that’s stupid.  Then I thought, that’s brilliant!  Then I thought, holy quagmire batman does this open up a kettle of fish!

As you know, I like robots.  I have often been criticized.  Oh, yes I have.  One of the many things I am criticized for is not feeling the pain of workers who are replaced by robots.  All those hard working miners who have lost their  “good paying” jobs working in mines. Or what about all those factory workers who lost their jobs in factories?  

Well, I’ve thought that liberating humans from doing meaningless, dangerous work was a good thing.  I didn’t know using machines to do that work that could kill or meme people was taking away their dignity, sense of worth and most of all an important uninterrupted money stream for governments.

Let’s use a data about a company I know something about, FOXCONN, to make a point.    Foxconn is the  world’s largest contract manufacturer. It employs over 1 million workers.  Starting in 2011 they installed 10,000 robots.  They call them FOXBOTS.  Today they are installing 30,000 a year.  Each robot costs about $20,000.  They perform routine jobs painting, welding and assembling.  In the future they will have a million robots, which means they will NOT need to hire a million humans.

Apply Moore’s law to robots 40% performance increase per year.  Your $20,000 robot today in quantities of 500 will cost $5,000 and be more efficient in just a few years in quantities of 10,000.   Even the lowest paid workers in the least developed countries will be uncompetitive. This data is from a 2014 Harvard Business School article by William  H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone.

Economist Brian Arthur predicts that intelligent machines by 2025 will replace 100 million workers and if you want to have something to panic over, current civilian workforce is 146 million.  Hell yes, tax those robots and make sure they pay my social security!

Now to be sure a sizeable number of the jobs lost will be made up by new ones, but not all of them.  It’s estimated that about 40 million will not be replaced.  That’s 40 million humans left behind.  Houston, we have a problem.  For the first time that I can remember human value is now being measured by the cost equivalent in machine intelligence.

Many of the solutions I have read about are big top down government solutions, more education, more infrastructure, greater government command and control.  It takes humans 20 years to produce a worker.  It takes less than 2 to 5 years to produce a faster, stronger, more intelligent robot, and  less than a day to build it if you have the correct supply chain.  We are going to need a better more individualized, cultural approach to solving this problem.  Big government will not give us the solution.

Now here is a different response from Shawn Hermans, Data Scientist at Bellevue University.  Mr Hermans correctly asserts that economics is not a zero sum game. As as previously pointed out jobs lost are replaced by usually better jobs that pay better.  That since the beginning of time technology has replaced labor done by humans.  This is a good thing and if it hadn’t happened we’d be spending all our time looking for food and not wasting time on Google.

He thinks the idea of robots displacing workers is shrinking the tax base is “flawed”.  He points out that the taxes paid by the lowest 50% of workers is only 2.25% and these are the people who are most at risk of being replaced by robots.  So, the cold reality of things is if these people are replaced by robots the tax impact would be minimal.  I see his point but what do we do with 40 million non-productive humans?

Well, it turns out our buddies in Europe have been wesseling with this question even longer than Bill Gates.  Because their governments have a lot more to lose than ours.  We are only concerned about social security and disability.  In Europe they have maternity leave, health care, education, soccer teams, the Italian banking system, Greek loans to Germany, way more to lose if they can’t tax robots.

Their answer, call them “electronic persons” give them a union card and send them off to work.  Sort of Centennial Man meets Norma Rea.  Simply mandate that robots are people. Preferably well compensated, highly taxed Frenchmen and presto competitive edge against humans removed assembly lines are back up and running, tax receipts continue all back to normal anyone for some wine and lunch?  R2D2 will you be joining us?

The end result of this would be to impoverish the entire continent.   This is nonsense, which means in Europe there’s a pretty good chance it will happen.

I once read my favorite dingbat economist Paul Krugman said “productivity isn’t everything”. Ah, well, Paul, in the long run productivity is pretty much everything. Since time began machines make every hour of human labor more productive which has improved the human condition.  I can’t see us stopping now.  Then I can’t understand how a proposal to tax people who employ robots to make us safer and economically better off is a good thing.

For me the scariest word I saw in the Gates article was EMPATHY.  Bill thinks government should show empathy to displaced workers and this tax on robots is the way to do that.  That scares me.  I don’t know about you but all my dealings with the government came with a guy with a badge and a gun and the not too subtle implication that they will use both if I did not comply to what they wanted.  I have never received empathy from the government nor do I expect it.  Government is about POWER, not empathy.

Free exchange is the form of social interaction that most encourages empathy.  If you want something, and somebody else has it, what’s the best way to get it?  Well, you can use force and steal it, you can beg, borrow, or you can trade for it, trust me for 80,000 years trading has been the most successful, least bloody way of achieving empathy.  The Government will use force and steal it. Legally of course!

We’ve been here before, we’ll solve the problem.  Taxes and big Government is not the one that will work.  I’m open to suggestions.  jgriff4039@hotmail.com

Robots and Global Warming

Guest essay by Eric Worrall h/t Richard – James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia hypothesis which underpins much of modern environmentalism, now thinks global warming is a religion. He also points out Singapore, one of the warmest cities in the world, is also one of the most desirable places to live. … What has changed […]

via James Lovelock on Climate Prediction: “I’ve grown up a bit since then.” — Watts Up With That?

The Concept of Terroir

All wine drinkers I think understand the concept of terroir.  Most basic but accurate definition of terroir is “somewhereness”.  It’s that magic of how that somewhereness of a particular place; region, vineyard, soil, sunlight, weather, climate, surrounding plant life and a thousand other elements all combind to give wine its unique taste.  Wine drinkers have studied it for centuries.

Recently I’ve noticed something about myself.  As my appreciation and ability to taste wine has developed, those abilities to taste flavors and detect nuances have been transferred to other foods as well.  So is the concept of Terroir transferable to other food products?  And is the concept of terroir really a sense?

The first place I notice this was in cigars.  Or maybe I have the chicken before the egg because I have smoked cigars far longer than I have appreciated wine.  My taste progression with cigars developed very similar to my developing tastes for wine.  I use to smoke anything, think “cheap”.  As the price went up I discovered my taste prefered fuller body tobaccos.  I liked Maduro and Corojo cigars.  Prefered Dominican cigars over Honduras, didn’t like Cubans.  For a mild smoke I like Canary Island tobacco.  I never heard the word TERROIR while smoking cigars, but there it was.  The tobaccos had a “somewhereness” and today I understand its Terroir.

Next came coffee.  Until recently any coffee would do, whatever was on sale, it didn’t matter. Now, again I’m changing.  Maxwell house doesn’t cut it anymore.  Dunkin Donuts, you’ve lost that loving feeling.  I now have been known  sneak into  Starbucks to purchase Sumatra.  Like cigars, I like bold over medium.  Dark Roasts over regular coffee, and I drink my Espresso black!  To a lesser extent than wine or cigars, terroir still has a huge impact on the taste of coffee.  But, other things are entering the picture.  Freshness is important to my coffee, I buy beans and grind them at home. I make smaller batches, I like to percolate rather than drip my coffee.  I’ve come a long way from the guy with a coupon for Folgers. For me this is the same thing as decanting and having specific glasses for specific wines.  I use to drink wine from red solo cups!

What has improved I think is my sense of smell.  Or more precisely, I have educated myself to be able to smell better.  Sounds more like a hygiene problem than a wine appreciation thing.  What I’m saying is we can only taste three things sweet, sour, and bitter.  But we can detect and Identify thousands of smells.  Try this experiment; hold your nose and eat a jellybean, tell me what you taste.  80 to 90 percent of what we say we taste is really aroma.  Again, the aroma of coffee and cigars often determine my enjoyment.  If I can’t smell the coffee, I can’t taste the coffee.

Where’s the beef?  This is another food group that has greatly changed for me based on terroir.  I can taste the difference between frozen and fresh meat.  Big deal so can everyone, but I couldn’t before, or maybe I just didn’t care.  But I think another sense is at work here, sight!  I can see a difference in the color of frozen vs fresh.  I also prefer to buy meats grown closer to home, local beef tastes better than beef shipped into the area.  I like Texas and Nebraska beef the best if it’s fresh.  Again its terroir at play.

I’m out of my league when it comes to vegetables, so I will defer to my resident expert Josephine who has nothing good to say about wine except that for her, cheaper is better and that just about everything I say is wrong, but on terroir, she’s a believer.  She’s from Sicily and is a great cook, but she will tell you that food she made when she was in Sicily tastes far different from the food she makes here.  Same recipe, same ingredients, far different results.  She agrees it terrior.  She notices it in tomatoes.  The only tomato that tastes like a tomato to her are the ones she eats when we go to Sicily.  Everything else ranges from tasteless to awful.  For her, it’s grow your own, buy local, buy at a supermarket only if you are starving!

I expect that cheese will be next. I find chees more confusing than wine.  But my interest is growing.

So, in appreciation of local terroir let’s drink a wine grown and made here in Connecticut.  The wine is from Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret Connecticut.  The wine is Red Seraph.  It’s a blend of Estate grown St. Croix and Merlot, I suspect they bought the Merlot juice and fermented it.  St. Croix is their specialty it grows pretty well here in Connecticut and the winemaker Howard Bursen in determined to make a killer red here in Connecticut, I’d say this is a pretty good start.

When drinking this wine I was thinking Chianti.  The color was dark red/ purple  it reminded me of Chianti.  Aroma was fresh fruit and most notable strawberries.  One thing I really loved in the wine  was  the nose held, it never faded, for me that’s a sign of a good wine.  Flavor once again I got cherries and strawberries.  I love dry wine and this one did not disappoint.  Good mouth feel, and I thought balance was pretty good.  The folks I shared the wine with were all surprised that the wine was from Connecticut and how really good it tasted.  It’s on the top of my CT red list.  Give it a try.

Let me know if your wine appreciation has transferred over to other food groups, I’m curious. What do you think sense or concept of terroir?

img_2753

Witches Brew

That really isn’t fair.  The true title should be Uncommon Blends.  What are we talking about? Blending wines.

Now, blended wines are about as common as corks and bottles.  In fact most of the wines you drink are blended even the ones that say “Merlot” or “Cabernet” are usually only 75 to 80 percent single varietal.  US law allows for a wine to be called “Merlot” if 75% of the wine is merlot.  Whites are usually single varietal, but not always examples White Bordeaux, Champagne, Soave, and White Burgundy.  One red, Pinot Noir, is almost never blended.

There are two types of blending.  Non-Vintage blends are blends that combine different vintages (years) of the same wine in order to balance flavors in an effort to make the wines taste the same regardless of the year they are bottle. They are usually labeled NV or non-vintage.  Port and Champagne are great examples.

Vintage blends are where different grapes, all from the same year are blended together.  The blending champ in this category has to be Chateauneuf-du-Pape where 13 different grapes are used.

The common wine blends are;

Red Bordeaux usually Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

White Bordeaux: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle

GSM “Rhone” most likely the best most loved blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre

Meritage: Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Carmenere, very similar to a Red Bordeaux.

The newest of the blends the “Super Tuscan” Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Why do we blend?  The obvious answer is to get a better tasting wine.  Blending of different wines allows the winemaker to hide, or diminish the wines weak points and accentuate the wines strong attributes.  The goal is to improve aromas, color, texture, body and ultimately our drinking enjoyment.  Got a wallflower Merlot, add a little Cabernet, and you have a prom queen, or at least you hide the glasses and braces.  There’s a little marketing going on here too.  Compare say Griffy’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 toss in a few other wines and now you have “Irregular Red”, much easier to market. Or not, what an unfortunate name.

The other reason is complexity.  Blended wines are far more interesting to taste. They give you something to think about.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a regular Rubik’s cube with so many moving parts. Winemakers can take months of tasting before they settle on the blend.  Creating the perfect blend depends on the characteristics of the years harvest right down to the type of barrels that are being used.

img_2732Okay,  let’s taste our wine The Ink Shed. Our wine is a red blend from Australia.  80 percent Petit Verdot and 20% Shiraz. They could have labeled this one just Petit Verdot and gotten away with it. To say the least this is an uncommon blend.  Petit Verdot usually doesn’t play the starring role in wines.  It is usually an support actor, usually adding richness, color, tannins and flavor to the blend.  If you were to assign a character trait to this grape it would be a “Stiffener” to the main character. As a stand alone wine it’s a hammer.  If you look at the traditional blends listed above Petit Verdot has many Oscars in its supporting roles.

Shiraz or Syrah is also often cast in a supporting role in wine.  In Australia however, it’s a leading man.  We have another hammer here with full fruit punch in both fists.

So, we have  Vincent Cassel starring and Russell Crowe co-starring, we’d expect car chases, and broken glass.  Well, the wine is muscular that’s true.  The Name Ink Shed came from the winemaker Bill Moularadellis who when looking at the wine had someone say “that’s not wine, it’s ink”!  And it is very dark purple.  On the nose you get that dark fruits, very nice bouquet.  Taste is wonderful.  Fruit forward, but not a bomb, all the dark fruit with a hint of spice and pepper.  Complex long finish.  I’d drink it again.

I’m looking for just a Petit Verdot wine, but they are expensive and hard to fine.  And I have a whole big long list of new wine blends just waiting to be explored.  Stay tuned!