Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wines I'm Drinking: 2005 Beni di Batasiolo "Serbato" Langhe Chardonnay

I recently tasted a 2003 Chardonnay from Beni di Batasiolo that I thought interesting but a little over the hill. This is a different bottling from the same producer, from a more recent vintage--the 2005 "Serbato" Langhe Chardonnay. Both wines are from Italy's Piedmont region, the home of better known wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Tasting notes below.

A pretty yellow-gold, clear and brilliant. Scents of lemons, wood, and manure. Yes, "manure," but not at all unpleasant. [Perhaps that's a bit harsh. Let's say lemons, wood, and musky animal scents rather than manure.] Lemon and honey on the palate. Bright acidity. Much fresher than its older stable-mate (see above). Sweet on the mid-palate with a nice lemony tartness lingering on a fairly long finish. Conceptually, lemon and musk may be a challenge to reconcile, but we happily consume all manner of meats with lemon squeezed on them, and this wine had something about it that reminded me of lemon chicken--not the sticky, yellow-dyed horrors that pass for lemon chicken in the Chinese restaurants of shopping mall food courts--but a real lemon chicken made with love and fresh ingredients (fond memories of Yaik Sang on Lockhart Rd. in Hong Kong years ago). The "Serbato" Chardonnay is not especially nuanced or profound, but, at only $3.99 a bottle at Grocery Outlet, this is a good value for everyday occasions. I'm likely to buy a few bottles to have on hand for those hot summer days that must surely be on the way.

I have no financial connection with any producer or retailer of wine.

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

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Day Lilies, Salvia Nemorosa, Pink Phlomis

First blooms of 2011 yesterday on several plants in the garden. The first day lilies bloomed, the deep orange ones under the white Japanese plum tree. Salvia nemorosa bloomed, and the first flowers appeared on the large pink Phlomis by the dwarf nectarine tree. I don't know the name of the day lily any more, but it's one I chose because it reminds me of the day lilies that bloomed at my grandmother's house in Dayton, Ohio. There was a whole bank of them there. This one is a little different--the shape of the petals is wrong (too brunt at teh tips)--but the color is very close.

Salvia nemorosa is not one of my favorite salvias. Generally I prefer the larger salvias to the small ones that grow from a mass of basal leaves, but this one has proved sturdy and reliable. I believe it's called "May Night." The Phlomis is another plant that I've last track of the species name of, but this is a large-leaved variety with pink flowers rather than the usual deep yellow. It may be Phlomis purpurea, or Phlomis lanata.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rain: Final Rain of the Season? (May 24-25, 2011)

We got another half inch of rain last night and this morning, which is very late in the season for us, but by no means unheard of. The new rain brings our total for the 2010-2011 rainy season to 38.6 inches, which is well above the average annual rainfall for Santa Rosa historically, which has been 31.9 inches. That means I'll have to get out there yet again to spray the grape vines with sulfur, to prevent mold, although it's been so cool and windy that the conditions haven't really been the sort that promote mold.

[Update: A bit of drizzle followed this, adding another 0.05 inches to the total, so we are now at 38.65 inches for the year.]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Dudleya, Salvia, Gaura, Echium (2011)

A number of plants came into bloom in the garden yesterday and today. Yesterday, Dudleya cymosa, a native succulent that normally clings to steep rock faces (growing here in a stone wall), and a large lavender and white salvia that unfortunately I've forgotten the species name of. The Dudleya bloomed on May 20 in 2010, so it has calculated a botanical year of 367 days. The salvia, whatever it is, bloomed on May 17 in 2010, calculating a year of 360 days.

Today brought first blooms of 2011 on Gaura lindheimeri, and Echium boissieri. Gaura is a delicate pink or white flower native to Texas and Louisiana that seems to do well here in our dry summer climate. Echium Boissieri is native to Spain. It's a comparatively rare Echium here. I bought a couple years ago and haven't seen it in the nurseries since, but, if left to go to seed, it reliably produces new seedlings every year. Like many of the Echiums, it's a biennial, producing a rosette of leaves in the first year, a tall flower stalk in the second year. The garden is just about at its peak now.

The Gaura bloomed on May 30 in 2010, for a year of 358 days. Echium Boissieri bloomed on May 20 in 2009 and on May 18 in 2010, calculating botanical years of 363 days and 370 days.

Wines I'm Drinking: 2008 Seigneur Jean-de-Roze St. Chinian Cinsault Rosé

I picked up a few bottles of a 2008 St. Chinian Cinsault Rosé last week at Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa. It caught my eye immediately because I spent about 12 weeks in the south of France last summer, about a 30-minute drive east of St. Chinian. The weather was very, very hot, which often called for well-chilled, light, refreshing local wines very much like this one, so I had to give it a try. Tasting notes follow.

A very pretty orange-tinted strawberry color. Many rosé wines from this area have something of the color of brandy in them--perhaps appropriate especially in the case of the St. Chinian wines, which also tend to have a little brandy on the nose. Very pretty in the glass. The wine was not especially forthcoming at first, but it had a fresh, clean fruitiness that eventually began to suggest red raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries. Later there were some caramel scents--the typical St. Chinian "brandy" note. Light and clean on the palate, at first seeming a bit too light, but with a good rush of fruitiness on the mid-palate and with plenty of balancing acidity.

Cinsault rosé wines from this part of the world are nothing profound--in some cases they lack substance--but they have their own charm. They are crisp, clean, comparatively low in alcohol, and very refreshing with food on a warm summer evening. This wine, the Seigneur Jean-de-Roze bottling from the Cave des Vignerons de Saint Chinian, is typical. Remarkably, it was less expensive here than I was paying for comparable wines in France. I suspect this offering simply didn't sell well and it got sold off in quantity to Grocery Outlet; the name St. Chinian is unfamiliar to wine drinkers here (although it ought to be less so) and Cinsault is a fairly obscure grape. Well, all the more for me. By the case, only $2.69 a bottle--needless to say, a bargain.

I have no financial connections with any producer or retailer of wine.
For more reviews, use the "Wines I'm Drinking" label at top right

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wines I'm Making: Third Sulfur Spraying (2011)

Yesterday I sprayed the vines with sulfur again following the heavy rains we had a few days earlier, hoping to get a layer of dust on again, to prevent mildew. I brought up the drop wires to hold the canes in place. Everything looks good, so far. The weather remains cool, so I don't expect mold to be much of a problem, but better safe than sorry.

[Update: Because of more rain, I had to spray the grapes for a fourth time this season on May 28.]
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