Saturday, August 13, 2011

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Epilobium Canum

First blooms of 2011 today on the Epilobium canum plants at the front of the garden, along the driveway. This is my favorite of the Epilobiums. There are about four varieties in the garden, but this one has especially pretty grey-green foliage and long, slender, deep red blossoms that are a favorite of both hummingbirds and bees and bumblebees. It is more upright than most of the other Epilobiums (until recently these were called Zauschneria, the common name is California fuchsia) and is very drought-tolerant once established. It's a perennial and will multiply if you let it go to seed. I can recommend this one highly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wines I'm Drinking: 2005 VJB "V" Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight I opened a bottle of the 2005 "V" Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bottling from VJB, the winery that is building that large new tasting room next door to CafĂ© Citti on Highway 12, near Kenwood. This was one of the first wineries I encountered when I moved to Sonoma County, in 2000. I very much liked VJB's "Dante," a blend of Cabernet and Sangiovese, which sold at that time for a very reasonable $18 at Whole Foods. In fact, I planted Sangiovese and Cabernet in my own backyard because I liked the "Dante" so much. The "V" wines have never seemed as interesting to me; they have tended to be overripe, too alcoholic, and too much lacking in tannin and acidity for my taste, but I went into this with an open mind. Tasting notes follow.

The wine is a deep pruney purple-black, showing a little age in the garnet tinge to the edge of the wine when tilted in the glass. Ripe fruit and brandy-like scents on the nose. Something suggestive of Vermouth as well--roots, or herbs, perhaps. Campari almost. Black cherries. Substantial on the palate. A trifle "hot." Again with something suggestive of roots or bitters. Black cherries and chocolate. Very soft, with light tannins. Overall, a ripe, velvety smoothness, but with a slightly bitter "medicinal" note on a moderately long finish offset by lingering fruity sweetness. Has an almost port-like quality. Rich, full, attractive, but not as complex as I'd expect from a wine at this price point (probably around $40 or so). The wine has improved compared with examples I've tasted when much younger, but I still prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon with more tannin, more of that Cabernet grassiness, a little more acidity, less overtly ripe fruit, and more complexity--in other words, Cabernet Sauvignon with better balance and a more European flavor profile--a matter of taste, naturally.

[Update: Shortly after this, I opened a bottle of the 2001 "V" Cabernet Sauvignon, and it had many of those characteristics--better balance, primarily. I enjoyed the 2001 wine very much. Worth seeking out, if it's still available anywhere. It appears to be drinking beautifully right now.]

(I have no financial connection with any producer or retailer of wine.)
For more wine reviews, use the Wines I'm Drinking label.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Places I'm Visiting: Santa Rosa Farmers' Market (August 2011)

I went to the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market again this past weekend, hoping to find good tomatoes--but still nothing. I continue to rely on the heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods, which are finally down to a more reasonable $3.99 a pound, but haven't had a truly great tomato yet this year. At the Farmer's Market, I did, however, come across some rather photogenic fruits and vegetables.

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