Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Birds I'm Watching: Santa Rosa, Point Reyes (September 14-15, 2010)

I took a short walk along Melita Rd. yesterday afternoon thinking I might see some migrating autumn warblers. I was disappointed in that, but got to watch a large flock of Cedar Waxwings and some Western Tanagers stealing grapes from a small vineyard in the front yard of one of the houses there. I got a nice photo of one of the tanagers (above). I had much better luck with warblers today.

I joined a group from the Madrone Audubon Society that went out to Point Reyes this morning--in dense, bone-chilling fog. There were virtually no warblers to be seen in the early part of the day out toward the lighthouse, except a single bird that no one got a good look at and no one was able to identify. The highlight at the lighthouse was a Rock Wren, which was a new bird for me. I also got good, leisurely looks at a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches, another new bird for me.

After lunch, out at Chimney Rock (which the bird people seem to refer to rather loosely as "the fish docks") we had better luck, tipped off by a group that was leaving as we arrived. We eventually found a single (probably female) Magnolia Warbler (yet another new bird for me) and two Black-and-white Warblers (which I saw for the first time in my life just last week, out at Bodega Bay), along with some Townsend's Warblers, a couple of Warbling Vireos, and about six flycatchers that seemed mostly to have been Western Wood Pewees (photo), although--as is often the case with the flycatchers--no one seemed positive. Despite the cold, damp fog and poor visibility in the early part of the day, it was a worthwhile trip. With the addition of Rock Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Wagnolia Warbler, my life list now stands at 317.

For more information about bird watching in Sonoma County, see my Website Sonoma County Bird Watching Spots

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wines I'm Drinking: 2009 Mas Brunet Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc

I've been home from a 10-week stay in southern France (with side trips to Barcelona, Corsica, Sardinia, and Italy proper) for a month tomorrow. I'm finally getting the last of the suitcases squared away. Among various receipts, brochures, odd bits of change (from this trip and, evidently, others), and the occasional rock labeled with a vineyard or other name in the bottom of one bag, I came across a cork in an envelope covered with tasting notes. I had forgotten about this wine, but it was a good one, so I've decided to belatedly write up the thoughts I jotted down while enjoying it.

I bought  the wine in an excellent little shop in St. Guilhem-le-Desert. I regret not having made a note of the name of the place. There was an excellent selection of high-end local wines, the proprietor spoke English, and he knew his product well.

The 2009 Mas Brunet Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc is a blend of Rousanne, Vermentino, and Vioginer. I chose it mostly because of the Vermentino component, having recently had so many good Vermentino wines in Sardinia--notably the 2007 Funtanaliras Vermentino and the 2008 "Arakèna" Vermentino di Gallura, both from the Cantina del Vermentino, in Monti, in Sardinia's Gallura region (the northeast). Having said that, the assertiveness of the Viognier made this selection rather different from any straight Vermentino wine. Brief tasting notes follow.

A very pale but pretty straw color. The sort of wine that makes its presence known immediately. Floral scents and a telltale peachy, Viognier-scent were evident even before putting my nose to the glass--but there was more than that. There was something like butter cream (or cake icing, perhaps), and there were vanilla scents. Initially seemed astringent, smoky, and a bit woody on the palate, but then it began to give an impression of creamy richness followed by some tannic graininess and then a lingering, fruity sweetness on an extended finish (although the wine is quite dry). With a little time, new scents and flavors emerged. I began to get hints of iron, honey, vanilla yogurt, and finally nutmeg. Complex, assertive, interesting, and delicious. I paid about €12 (or around $15) for the bottle. Recommended (although this wine is unlikely to be available in the US). If you can find it, it's well worth a try, and I suspect this is a producer worth keeping an eye out for.

For more wine reviews, use the Wines I'm Drinking label.

Wines I'm Drinking: 2005 Château Franc Grace-Dieu, St. Emilion

I recently tasted the 2005 Château Franc Grace-Dieu, a wine from St. Emilion that I bought a year or so ago at the Wine Spectrum Bar and Shop here in Santa Rosa. I tasted it only briefly at the store, but liked it well enough to buy nine bottles on the spot. This is the first one I've opened and taken the time to linger over. If I'd had the name in my head last month, I might have stopped by the winery when I was in the neighborhood, but I didn't think of it. Brief tasting notes follow.

The wine was a deep blackish-red. Very nice color. Looks vibrant. Looks almost like berry juice. A fresh, young-looking wine. Quite closed on the nose. Hints of rose water, and a little citrus, but not a lot more. Perhaps going through a dumb phase? On the palate seemed similarly closed at first, but velvety, with cloaked, soft, delicate tannins. Good length, but not very generous at the moment. Clearly needs more time in bottle. I let it sit for about an hour and came back to it, which opened things up considerably. The tannins had gained a little bite and the flavor profile was noticeably more expansive, suggestive of blueberries, coffee, and graham crackers. Still quite tight--and likely to be misunderstood at this stage--but a clean, well-made, poised wine that promises to improve. I look forward to opening another bottle in a couple of years. I would expect this to be at its peak from 2015-2020 or beyond. I paid $17.99/bottle in 2008. Recommended--but don't buy this if you're the impatient type. If you must drink it now, decant it and give it plenty of time.

Found Art: Tomatoes and Autumn Peppers (September 11, 2010)

I went down to the farmers' market at the Veteran's Building in Santa Rosa on Saturday, my first visit to the market since getting back from France. As always, my first priority was finding good tomatoes. There were many available, generally at about $2.50-$3.00 a pound, which is better than the stores at the moment--and the tomatoes are fresher and taste better. My favorites are the greenish-purplish, deeply lobed ones (lower right corner of the photo).

I love to see the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but I was particularly impressed at one stand by the piles of peppers in virtually every color a pepper comes in. Beautiful. Found art.

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