Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wines I'm Drinking: 1998 Château Mont-Redon Côtes du Rhône

Opened my last bottle of 1998 Château Mont-Redon Côtes du Rhône tonight. Wow. It was beautiful when it was new. It's even more beautiful at eleven years old. Inexpensive (about $11 a bottle), I bought this wine by the case when I first moved back to California from Tokyo (in 2000). It was so good then, it was hard to resist. This was the only bottle that survived. Wonderful scents of figs, violets, licorice, and meat. Perfectly balanced. Good fruit, mellowed tannins, soft acidity. Mature, but very much alive. This could easily pass for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape costing four to five times as much. Beautiful wine. Just goes to prove that great wine does not have to be expensive--but 1998 appears to have been a truly great year in the southern Rhône.

Birds I'm Watching: Spring Lake (October 17, 2009)

Went on a walk around Spring Lake this morning with some experienced birders from the Madrone Audubon Society. Cleared up a few birds I was wondering about and got two new ones for my life list--the band-tailed pigeon and Wilson's Snipe--making 160. Bird species sighted by the group totaled 71, 41 of which I saw. I did not count birds I heard without seeing, unless I was very familiar with the call already. Today's sightings included: Redwing Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Crow, Steller's Jay, Scrub Jay, California Quail, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Gold-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Great Blue Heron, Kildeer, Wilson's Snipe, Great Egret, Mallard, Canada Goose, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Cooper's Hawk, Hutton's Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Band-tailed Pigeon, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Oak Titmouse, Brown Creeper, Bewick's Wren, Anna's Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttal's Woodpecker, Red-shafted flicker, Belted Kingfisher, and House Finch.

Forty one species in one day at Spring Lake is a new record for me. The photo shows the scenery early in the morning.

At home, afterwards, there were a lot of birds around. In the space of 10 minutes I saw: Crow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Golden-crowned Sparrow (heard), Bushtits, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Scrub Jay, Black Phoebe, Nuttal's Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Anna's Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, and a Hermit Thrush--fifteen species without even leaving my yard.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wines I'm Making: Sangiovese Rosé Racked and Topped Up

Racked and topped up the Sangiovese rosé this morning. Topped it up with the remaining three bottles of last year's rosé and a couple of bottles of a local Sangiovese rosé. Unfortunately, the grapes yielded well over three gallons, but not as many as five--always an awkward amount. I sure wish somebody would make 2- or 4-gallon carboys. Sulfited very lightly, but it still seems to be working, even though it tested at less than 0 Brix yesterday. I'll let it go, if that is its wont. After it stops completely I'll rack it again and sulfite lightly once more--or maybe not. This is not wine designed to last. It usually doesn't survive more than a year. I hope we will have some excellent rosé to drink at Thanksgiving. So far, so good. The fermentation ended up being two full weeks (assuming we call it stopped today)--much longer than the furious four-day fermentations of the past with this yeast (Epernay II).

Music I'm Listening To: Itzhak Perlman and the San Francisco Symphony

Just got back from hearing Itzhak Perlman play with and conduct the San Francisco Symphony. Perlman played the Bach Violin Concerto No. 2, conducting as he played. He later led the orchestra in Elgar's Introduction and Allegro--one of my favorite pieces of music--and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6. Had an early dinner at Café Delle Stelle, on Hayes St. beforehand. Solid, but not great. Still, it was fairly priced, I'd say. Actually, considering that they were packed, it was not bad at all. I had grilled shrimp with tuscan white beans for a starter and then Tagliatelle. Enjoyed a tasty Verdicchio along with it.

It was fun to see Perlman live again. I have seen him in person once before, in 1983 or so. That was a long time ago, but it is a concert I remember vividly. He played one of the Bach solo partitas or sonatas, at Mershon Auditorium, in Columbus, Ohio. I remember paying $8 for the ticket--and it was a good seat. Tonight he played a Violin Concerto, not a solo piece. I'm afraid it was a bit disappointing. Perlman was difficult to hear against the backdrop of the orchestra. The playing seemed highly competent--as it always is in San Francisco--but it lacked spark. Perhaps it was just me. I had the feeling that Perlman was tuned a trifle flat, as well. That's probably my imagination, or related to the muddy sound. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed.

No matter. I have learned to cherish the gems of live performances and not worry too much about the disappointments, and the Elgar Introduction and Allegro was wonderful. Perlman took the orchestra through a somewhat more lush interpretation than the one I'm used to (on Edward Elgar: Works for String Orchestra, William Boughton conducting the English String Orchestra, Nimbus NIM 5008). Despite Perlman's interpretation being a little more romantic than the one I know, it was disciplined. Perlman managed to make the music feel both lush and restrained at the same time. While that may sound contradictory, a nice balance of the romantic and the restrained seems just right for Elgar somehow. I had never seen this piece performed before. I enjoyed watching the hand-offs from section to section in the fugue-like section toward the end of the piece. Very enjoyable. The concert was worth it just for this.

Like the Elgar, the Tchaikovsky was fun to watch. There's a lot going on in this one, especially among the woodwinds, in the brass section, and in the percussion section (and the woodwinds of the San Francisco Symphony are always particularly good). It was interesting to see the bass drum player rotate the drum back and forth between vertical and horizontal positions, the latter for the loudest strokes. I wonder how that's written into the score? The Fifth Symphony is still my favorite of the Tchaikovsky symphonies, but this was a solid performance. I hadn't realized Perlman was conducting as much as he seems to be these days.

Photo of Itzhak Perlman used with permission: Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Miscellaneous: Storm and New Neighbors

Well, they were right about a storm coming in. We haven't had one like this for several years. Heavy rain and high winds. My rain gauge already shows 3 inches last night and today. In other words, we've had a tenth of our normal annual rainfall already in less than 24 hours. That bodes well.

In other news, the house next door to us is in escrow again. We'll see if the sale goes through this time. Sounds like a younger couple with a one-year-old daughter. It will be strange having neighbors on that side for the first time in the nine years we've lived here. As long as they are quiet and don't have noisy dogs, I'm happy. It would be nice if they were educated, artsy, wine enthusiasts, but you can't have everything. We'll see.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wines I'm Making: Pressed the Second-run Cabernet Today

Checked the fermentation of my experimental second-run Cabernet today and the hydrometer read zero. With a big storm coming in tonight (so they say), I decided to press the wine and get all the season's wine-making equipment cleaned up and packed away. We ended up with a little more than three gallons of the wine. It's light, but respectably colored. It doesn't taste too bad, either. I added in a little of the zinfandel now undergoing malolactic fermentation in the hope of getting it going in this wine as well. We'll see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art on Wheels: 2009 Alameda All-Italian Car and Motorcycle Show

I showed my 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider at the 2009 Alameda All-Italian Car and Motorcycle Show today (first picture--just washed and ready for the drive to Alameda). Here are a few pictures of cars at the show--three Alfa Romeos, a Ferrari racing car cockpit, and a little Fiat 600. The turn out was excellent this year and there were more cars than I remember seeing in the past. It was mostly Alfas, which is why I enjoy the show, but there were cars from Fiat, Lancia, Maserati, Lamborghini, and Ferrari among others. Art on wheels.
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