J Opi Malbec 2013

00y4y6os41om8_375x500I enjoy the wines from Argentina, but I typically don’t buy them.  I have my own personal embargo against Argentina that will remain in force until that country’s politicians and notable citizens give up their Socialistic ways.  I do not wish to politicalize wine, but “if you have eyes that see” you couldn’t help but notice that the policies pursued in Argentina are wrong, not working and harming the average person.  If you love them, set them free!

Okay, that’s it!  I’m all fired up, both politically and about the wine.

Today’s wine is from Andean Vineyards in Mendoza.  The Wall Street Journal Wine club must have a good deal with this vineyard because they get a number of different varietals from them. There is this wine, J Opi, and a Malbec blend called “The Wax Bat;” both are good values.

The Chief winemaker at Andean is Rodolfo “Opi” Sadler and he is the mastermind behind both of the wines I just mentioned above.  He is sometimes called “the Magician” and holds numerous awards including “Best Malbec from “The Wines of Argentina” competition.  Not bad in a country full of people making Malbec.  He also has been featured in “Decanter” magazine.

Our bottle of Opi has an inky-dark purple color.  The aroma is inviting, warm like a newly baked cherry pie, while the taste is a super-smooth, medium-bodied red with plum and vanilla.  I paired my wine with apples, brie, and a nice warm fire while looking at vacation pictures on a big screen TV.  It was a wonderful way to pass a cold winter night.

I saved about half the bottle for the next day, and although it had lost a little of it smoothness it still was a great tasting wine.

My guess is everyone reading this has enjoyed a Malbec wine at some time or another, so telling you to try one is a little silly.  And no, I don’t expect you to join my embargo on Argentina either.  What I would ask of you is to lift your glass think about what’s going on in the world, the growth of intolerance, the decline in personal and economic freedom, and ponder what’s going on around you.  Who knows, you might be able to shine a little light for freedom.

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Success

#MWWC15  wine-stain1-3

“Look at all my trials and tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine, don’t disturb me now I can see the answer, till this evening is this morning life is fine.” I’ve always received comfort from those lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar.  Well it’s called a challenge and so it is, the theme is “Success.” I think the only thing I know about success is how to live without it, and enjoy it with others when they achieve it.

Even that statement isn’t exactly true. One of the quotes on success that I found from David Brinkley says, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the the bricks others have thrown at him.” Over the years I’ve built quite a foundation and like the Elton John song says, “I’m still standing.”

Wine is my Balm of Gilead. Over the past three years I have taken solace in the fruit of the vine. Wine has cooled my anger, eased my worried brow, and medicated a broken spirit. I have rejoiced and sung with it during happy times, meditated while looking deep into a glass of red or purple, and pondered life the universe and everything with it. Wine is my mantra, and I recite it one sip at a time.

I’ve started counting my blessings by counting corks: here’s the cork from when my Grandson Beny was born, here’s the one from when I celebrated my daughter’s new job, here are the corks from vacations Josephine and I took all over the world. I have corks for the birthdays I didn’t think I was going to have after my heart attack, and from when my son-in-law and I drank that fantastic wine from Long Island or Spain. And of course, the countless corks from times spent with family and friends doing much of nothing but saying thanks for being my friend and really saying I love you.  I count my corks as my blessings, and count my blessings like I count my corks.

David Frost says on the topic, “Don’t aim for success; if you want it just do what you love and believe in it and it will come naturally.”  I can’t say I can buy this one totally.  I would love to make my living drinking and telling people about wine, but so far I haven’t made a dime.  But I have gained a wealth of wisdom, been paid in passion, and loved every second I’ve spent doing it.

The thing I love most about wine is the story the each bottle tells you.  I enjoy the success of others as I sample the product of their labors in their wines.  My latest obsession is Penfold’s.  I’d love to drink my way through all of the bins.  I wonder did Max Schubert think he was a success, or was he just doing something he loved?  I wonder about Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago who followed him at Penfold’s. Is what they have accomplished together a job, or a passion?  Is it both?

Before Penfold’s I was into Gaja.  For about two months I read about Angelo Gaja, drank Barbaresco and Barolo, (not his, I can’t afford them, but others) so at least I could attempt to understand what he was trying and obviously succeeding at creating: a definitive wine.  To get an idea of how Gaja and his right hand man, Sori San Lorenzo, do what they do and why, read the book “Making a Great Wine” by Edward Steinberg. You’ll spend the year 1989 from grapes to bottle in making one standout vintage Barbaresco.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm,” said Winston Churchill.  As I read the history of wine its mostly of what didn’t work and the exception that did.  To get an idea of what the early California wine producers did to attain their level of success read “Judgement in Paris 1976” by George Taber or watch “ Bottle Shock.  These guys didn’t just succeed for themselves, they opened the world to not just better wine, but to great wine from around the world.

Go back further to Dom Perignon.  Did you know he was trying to learn how to get the bubbles out?  After years of trying and learning how not to accomplish that, in a fit of inspiration (and frustration) he gives up, runs into a hall, calls out to the brother Monks “I am drinking stars” and the rest is history.  See, sometimes you just give up, declare victory, and make a success out of what you’ve got.  And while we are talking about Monks, let’s praise the Benedictine and Cistercian Monks whose painstakingly labored to establish and define countless little parcels of land that over centuries would become the best vineyards in Burgundy, and give the world the concept of “terroir” and “vigneron” the grower.

“Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value,” Albert Einstein.  This one I can agree with.  I struggle with a desire to be successful and maybe I miss the fact I already am!  I was complaining to someone that only about 40 people read my blog.  They looked at me and said, you have 40 people who are interested enough to take time and read what you write and listen to you?  Wow, and some of them are your kids!

I do find a value in wine.  Freedom of expression, science, art, history, passion, hope,  desire all wrapped up in a bottle waiting to be explored.  Wine has added value to my life, and in many ways helped me to become a man of value.  It’s possible that wine and I are alike in that both of us are sunlight and water held together by love.

Mindful Drinking

IMG_1426The commercial asks, “Ever want to get away?”  Right now, I would promptly answer, “more than anything!”

Well, fortunately for me I have my imaginary canary yellow Fiat 500 convertible. So until I finish writing this blog post (or I finish the this wonderful bottle of wine), I’m not here. I’m in Montefalco Italy and I’m drinking 8 year old Sagrantino wine.  So Windar take me away from here!

Lets talk about Montefalco first.  Located in central Italy’s province of Perugia Umbria, the town sits on an outcrop above the floodplain of the Clitunno river.  About the only thing the town has got going for it is several churches, the most notable of which is San Francesco, with it’s frescos showing the life of St. Francis. That, and the wine Montefalco Sagrantino.

The Sagrantino is a small production grape grown in central Italy, and is one of the most tannic varieties in the world.  The wine it produces is inky purple and has a black heart, just like me.  The bouquet is brooding, not unlike this mood I’m in, and I’m loving this wine because it easing my level of aggravation. God bless it’s dark heart and brooding nose.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that it has an alcohol level of better than 14.5%.

The Sagrantino was primarily a dessert wine made in the “passito” style, where the grape is dried like a Recioto di Valpolicella. Starting in 1992, winemakers started making the dry tasty style that I’m enjoying and in 1979 the area was granted a DOCG.

The wine is aged for 30 months, at least 12 of those in oak barrels.  This wine can be stored for long durations and enjoyed over years.

Tenvta Castelbuono is the latest project of the Lunelli family, who for 3 generations has been at the helm of Ferrari sparking wines. The winery was designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro and is called “Carapace La Tartaruga” or “turtle.” It’s a curved, copper, shell-shaped structure with wall to ceiling glass walls and a tasting room set over sunken cellars. It’s less a workplace and more a work of art.   carapace-1ok

This would be a great wine to use to introduce mindful drinking.

I’m about as far away from “New Age” anything as a person can get, however I started studying “mindfulness” as a way to combat my overstressed work life. Mindfulness, in its simplest form, means being “present” in the moment, intentionally and non-judgmentally. This for me means if I make up my mind to THINK about where I was in just that minute, I could have a 60 second nirvana.

I then started to apply this concept to my wine drinking.  I was getting so wrapped up in the wine junk of noting the color, smell, texture, taste and writing it all down and taking pictures that one day I asked myself if I actually tasted the wine I just drank?

I saw this in others too.  I noticed that when I was with friends it didn’t really matter to them if the wine that landed in front of them was a Cab or a Malbec, they drank it! While keeping up the dialog about the day’s drama, workplace horrors, domestic battles, and hashing over sports victories or defeats, the question of why I spend money and not pay attention to what I bought kept prodding my mind.

I decided to employ mindful drinking habits. Like this wine for example.  I deliberately looked for a wine made from 100% Sagrantino grape, because that’s what I wanted to drink.

Next, I read the label.  And try this yourself, look at the dates on the label.  Unless you are in a much higher income bracket most of what you are drinking is 2012 to 2013.  The Montefalco is 2007, which explains its price tag $40. I also looked for notes on the label stories about the vineyard or winemaker.  Why?  It sets a context for the wine.  Every wine has a story to tell, and it’s worth listening, otherwise why are you drinking it?

Color: is it clear or cloudy, dark or light, pink, purple or many of the overworked red hues. What’s this tell you? Do you like the color or not? How does it smell? How does that make you feel, what emotions do you experience? Are you happy or repulsed? Cheese or flowers? For me its either I like it or I don’t. The nose needs to draw me in or I start thinking I wasted my money.

What do you taste?  Again, I don’t get all that strawberries, lemon or leather stuff, as normally I don’t lick my jacket. But good and bad I get.  Wonderful is what I’m hoping for. I always try to drink the wine with a meal, or at very least cheese and crackers and some fruit.  The two questions I can always answer is how does this make me feel, and what did this wine teach me.

How’s the texture?  Dry or Sweet? Silky or smooth or bumpy?  Big taste, or elegant?  Did the flavor last in your mouth or disappear like an email when you hit enter?

While I’m having my first glass I try not to be judgemental.  Hey no one cares about my score.  But I’m thinking did I like it.  Would I buy it again, was it worth the price I paid?  I’ll drill down to the details in my second glass and normally I try to limit my drinking to two glasses, because I want to taste the wine tomorrow to see how it changed. Yeah, I do savor and think about every sip.  No I don’t get intoxicated (often) following these rules and it takes most of the night to drink my two glasses. Best of all, when I’m done I know the wine intimately, what I want to try next time, and why.

So, let me get back to this delightful dark and brooding wine, soothe my savage soul, and while I do that why don’t you kick back and do some mindful drinking yourself.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”  Oh, and drinking wine helps too!