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Dec 07

For the Love of Writing …

I started this blog almost 8 years ago because I loved wine, I loved writing, and I wanted to share with the world. Much to my surprise, the world actually gave a damn for a while.

Life has changed a lot for me in the last decade – particularly in the last 2 years. For those of you who don’t know, I’m now living in the San Francisco area. Turns out, I picked one of the most expensive areas in the country, so there’s been a lot adjustment to the new price tag of life. A lot of other things in my life are changing too and I haven’t paid as much attention to this blog as I should.

Thankfully, Cresta and Angela have really picked up the slack. Both based in the Cincinnati area, they make sure you’re getting reviews and event notifications of great things happening back in my hometown. For me, this is still a regional blog and Cresta and Angela are the heart of that.

In the midst of upheaval, I’ve still had some great experiences in the last couple of years. I tried some great wine. I went to Paris and Bordeaux. I passed the level 1 sommelier exam. These are all things I should write about.

Maybe because of the other changes in my life, I’ve been suffering the world’s largest case of writer’s block. I used to love writing. Now, I have an experience (such as Bordeaux) and I truly want to share it with you. But not in writing. The idea of sitting down at the computer (I almost said “typewriter”) and pounding out a blog post seems unappealing to me. It seems like work, and not something I love to do. I look at other wine bloggers, especially the ones who, like me, have been in this game since the beginning, and I’m amazed at their continued tenacity and passion. I’m jealous.

You’re my readers. You are exceptionally loyal. You’ve welcomed my reduced presence and my great new team with open arms. I can’t thank you enough for that. I ask you, the readers (and for that matter, you PR folks out there too), to have just a little more patience with me. I’m trying to find a way to either make writing fun again or find some alternative means of using this blog to share my wine experiences. I’m open to suggestions.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, and wine-filled holiday,

Michelle

 

 

 

 

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 2:45 pm in Holiday, Life, News, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (3)
Apr 09

Mad Men Monday: Gin Fizzes

by Michelle

*spoilers ahead*

That’s right. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen last evening’s episode.

#########

 

Before I get into the cocktails, was anyone else shocked when Don took a temporary turn for the dark side last night? I hadn’t expected him to sleep with Andrea, let alone strangle her. I was, of course, relieved to discover it was a fever-induced delusion. But perhaps we did take a turn for the darker side of things last night. Don has discovered that it is probably within him to kill someone who might destroy his happiness. Sally has been exposed to the “real world,” with the brutal murder of 8 nursing school students in Chicago. To combat this? Grandma just splits a sleeping pill with her. So yeah, maybe we are walking a bit on the dark side this season. I said to someone this morning that I find the 60s to be one of the most confusing times. Civil rights, the beginnings of the women’s movement,  the shadows of different wars hanging over the country like a spectre, whether it’s Viet Nam or WWII. I can’t imagine growing up in the middle of all that, and I wonder how it will affect Sally.

Then there is Joan. She has her own darkness with which to contend. In case we’d forgotten what an ass her husband is, the writers brought him back for an episode. I admit, I’d been waiting to find out he’d been killed in action. I’d forgotten that he has very low self-esteem, that he failed at landing the job of his dreams, and that he made up for the lack of faith in himself by raping his now-wife. Joan hadn’t forgotten. “You were never a good man.” Go Joanie! I was rooting for her!  I get that he re-upped because the military is the first place he’s felt useful and knowledgeable. That counts for a lot. But Joan is right; that’s just not a decision you make without consulting your wife. I wonder if now that she’s kicked him out if they’ll get a divorce or if the writers will kill him off. Either way, Joan is effectively a single mom now , and lest we forget, that’s really Roger’s baby.

From 4/8/12 episode of AMC’s Mad Men

When Joan first found out about the re-upping, they were in a restaurant with her in-laws. Everyone else ordered wine. “That one,” he said, pointing at the menu. We never did find out what wine “that one” might be. Joan, however, bucked the wine trend and ordered a gin fizz, so that’s what we’ll talk about today.

Sloe Gin Fizz (from Cocktail Times)

Sloe Gin is a red gin-based liqueur infused with sloe berries. It is usually bottled at between 15 to 30 percent alcohol by volume. Some sloe gins are made with neutral spirit flavored with sloe berries. 

  • 1 1/2 oz sloe gin
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • egg white
  • dash of bitters
  • club soda

Garnish: orange slice and maraschino cherry
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Ramos Gin Fizz (from Gumbopages.com)

Years ago, Kevin and I spent New Year’s Eve at the cocktail lounge in Arnaud’s in New Orleans. I drank a variety of champagne cocktails, but the bartender took Kevin on his own personal tour of New Orleans cocktails. The one that sticks with me is the Ramos Gin Fizz because it was the first drink I’d seen ever made with an egg white. The drink was invented in the 1880s by Henry Ramos at New Orleans’ Meyer’s Restaurant. It later became the signature drink of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans and New York, thanks to Governor Huey Long, who happened to be a fan. This recipe calls for shaking at least one minute. I’ve read that you can shake up to 10 minutes and because of that, it often takes a bartending team to make a large number of Ramos Gin Fizzes.

According to Gumbopages.com, you need to be very careful when adding orange flower water to the drink because it can easily overwhelm the cocktail.

  • 2 ounces gin (Old Tom gin if you can get it)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 small dashes orange flower water
  • 2 drops vanilla extract (very optional; there’s some controversy over whether this was ever really used, but it does add a nice touch)
  • 1 ounce cream
  • 1 egg white
  • Soda water

Shake all ingredients except the soda water WITHOUT ICE very vigorously for at least one minute, preferably longer — the longer the better. Then add ice and shake for 1-2 minutes, as long as you can manage, until extremely cold and frothy. Strain into a tall thin glass, or a very large old fashioned glass, and top with soda water. Stir gently.

My thanks also to GumboPages, who pointed me towards this great video on making a Ramos Gin Fizz:

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Posted by Michelle at 3:30 pm in Cocktails, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Television, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Apr 06

Super Elegant … and Expensive … Sangria

by Michelle

Out here in Napa Valley, there’s a big weekend at the end of April called the Vineyard to Vintner (V2V) Open House Weekend featuring wines from the upper echelon Stag’s Leap District. V2V is out of my limited price range at the moment, but there is something in the press release that caught my eye.

The Stag’s Leap District Vintners are coming together to make a sangria.

Yeah, you heard that right. I often recommend a more low-end wine for sangria, because you’re just going to destroy it with brandy and fruit. But this time, 18 of the District’s high-end cabernet sauvignons will combine with local fruits and brandy to create … fruit punch. Really really extravagant fruit punch.

Here’s what the folks in the Stag’s Leap District have to say about their classier-than-average sangria:

“Everyone knows that we make some pretty remarkable wines here in the Stags Leap District, some of the best in the world,” said newly elected SLDW President, Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock Winery. “What people don’t know is how much fun we have doing it.  Our V2V weekend and our ‘Swanky Sangria’ are our way of showing the world the extraordinary sum of our parts as the fortunate beneficiaries of this District’s amazing terroir and eclectic personalities.”

Once again, the sangria is out of my price point, but I would dearly love to try some. Considering the cost of many of the bottles involved, the estimated value of the blend is $20/oz or a staggering $100 a glass.  That better be some amazing sangria … and everyone better sip!

Out of your price point too? We’ve got some tasty sangria recipes right here on Wine-Girl.net that I promise won’t cost you $100/glass.

Greatest Hits: Make Your Own Sangria (Red, White, and Blush recipes)

Cheers!

 

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Apr 04

Mad Men Addendum: Advertising, Glassware & Piper-Heidsieck Whimsy

by Michelle

On Monday, I spent some time talking about Piper-Heidsieck. My thanks to Eric who sent me an image of a beautiful vintage poster of a Piper-Heidsieck bottle. It’s so appropriate considering Mad Men is set in the world of advertising. This print ad is from 1953, displaying the 1949 vintage. The bottle is appears identical to the one Pete opened in Sunday’s episode. If indeed it was a 1949 vintage, I have no doubt it cost our fictional character a fair amount of his fictional 1960s dollars. I bet it tasted pretty darned good though.

One item I’d like to point out about the above ad is that the bubbly is poured into a regular wine glass and not a champagne flute. Now, maybe the good folks at Piper-Heidsieck can shed some light on that choice for me. In fact, the classic tulip shaped champagne flute was in wide use by the 1930s. However, a lot of people were still using the champagne coupe, from the late 1800s. (A myth states the coupe was molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette.) In fact, in 2009, we found the characters of Mad Men enjoying some Veuve Clicquot in coupes.

To end on a note of utter whimsy, you’ll notice there is a miniature circus, including a rather talented giraffe, taking over the ad. Piper-Heidsieck is a Champagne House that’s always been slightly unconventional, even when everything was conventional in the 1940s and ’50s. In 2008 they embraced their inner Lewis Carroll and released an upside-down bottle designed by Viktor & Rolf. If you were feeling exravagant, you might also pick up an upside down ice bucket and flutes.

Cheers!

 

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Posted by Michelle at 6:14 am in History, Knowledge, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Apr 02

Mad Men Mondays: Champagne, Piper-Heidsieck, and Shoes!

by Michelle

Screen capture, AMC TV’s Mad Men, 2012

In last night’s Mad Men, I was given a lot of options. I could write about cocktails, about Canadian Club, Jack Daniel’s, Stoli, or even Chivas Regal. But near the end, I was given the perfect opportunity to wax on a bit about my favorite beverage of all … champagne.

Near the 40 minute mark, Pete is announcing the Mohawk Airlines win and deftly putting down Roger, all while opening a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I can’t zoom in far enough without going blurry, so I can’t tell you whether it’s a vintage year or not. So let’s start with a quick refresher on champagne itself.

There are a lot of tasty sparkling wines out there, including cava and just good ol’ sparkling wine. It’s not uncommon for these to be made using the age old Champenois process. However, in order to be called “champagne,” it needs to come from the Champagne region of France, no matter how many bubbles are racing to the top.

Via IntrepidDreamer.com

Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests.  Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.

Bubbly is made from any one or more of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. It also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the champagne is produced from pinot noir, pinot meunier, or a blend of the two.

You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.

To tie it all back into our episode, let’s talk a little about Piper-Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck is in the Reims region of Champagne and has been around since 1785. Now one of the largest Champagne Houses, it started as the house of Heidsieck with Florens-Louis Heidsieck at the helm. Florens-Louis passed away in 1828 and his nephew Christian took over, with help from his cousin, Henri Piper. The House didn’t become a hyphenate until 10 years later, when Christian died. Cousin Henri took this chance to marry the newly widowed wife of Christian (oh yes!) and the house of Piper-Heidsieck was created.

Piper-Heidsieck has had some fun over the years, but in 2009 they really attracted my attention with Le Ritual  - a collaboration with Christian Louboutin. Really, shoes and champagne … of course I noticed this.

Le Rituel is a box set containing a glass stiletto, complete with signature red sole, and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck. The collaboration was in homage to an odd period in the 1880s when there was an strange and decadent high-society “ritual” of drinking from women’s shoes.

Cheers!

 

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Posted by Michelle at 6:05 pm in History, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (3)

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