Thursday, September 15, 2011

Found Art: Shadows and Light (September 15, 2011)

At a gallery not long ago, I saw this pattern of shadows and light on the floor. It was more interesting than the work hanging on the walls--but, art is where you find it.

For more found art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wines I'm Making: Racked 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (September 11, 2011)

Today I racked 11 gallons of wine--mostly the eight gallons of our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Everything went smoothly. I sulfited the wine lightly, using six Campden tablets in the eight gallons, which should mean a sulfur level of about 49ppm. I also racked three gallons of "second-run" Cabernet--wine made from the lees of the real wine. I got a chance to taste both wines for the first time in about six months. I'm very pleased. Everything looks, smells, and tastes good. Even the faux wine is acceptable (this method of re-fermenting the lees seems to work better with red wine than it does with rosé).

I'll be bottling this wine in the next few weeks, ahead of harvesting the 2011 grapes. I tested a random Cabernet grape today and was surprised to find it at 18 brix already. I'm aiming for 24.5. If the weather remains good, that means we should be harvesting in about the third week of October. With the electric fence on and the nets secured, I'm hoping we'll get there with no further losses to animals.

Wines I'm Drinking: Three Inexpensive Pinot Noirs

They say you get what you pay for. While that's certainly not always true in the case of wine, it seems to be most nearly true when it comes to Pinot Noir. It really is hard to find good, inexpensive Pinot Noir, but that doesn't keep me from trying. Yesterday I sampled three inexpensive Pinots from my local Grocery Outlet, two from New Zealand and one from Germany. I was especially interested in the German wine as Pinot Noir is not much grown there.

I tasted the 2008 New Harbor Vineyards Marlborough Pinot Noir, the 2008 Sacred Hill Central Otago Pinot Noir, and the F. W. Langguth "Black Slate" Pinot Noir. I couldn't find a vintage on the German wine, which may mean that it involves a blend of grapes from different years or simply that it's poorly labeled. The wine is from the Rheinhessen and only 90% Pinot Noir (something I failed to notice when I bought the wine). It is 10% Regent--a grape variety I had never heard of, and one that goes without mention in Jancis Robinson's Vines, Grapes and Wines (Mitchell Beazley, 1986)--the first time I've not been able to find grape information in that book--but Regent appears to be a newcomer. According to the Wikipedia article on the variety, Regent is a hybrid created in the late 1960s at the Geilweilerhof Institute for Grape Breeding. According to the Institute's website, Regent is a cross between Diana (itself Silvaner x Müller-Thurgau) and Chambourcin). Appreciated in large part for its resistance to fungal diseases, it appears to have entered general cultivation in the mid-1990s. Regent is planted mostly in Germany and the UK. It seems to make decent single-variety wine in some parts of Germany, but I don't understand exactly what it was intended to add to this blend--perhaps color, as several German web pages I looked at emphasize the good color Regent achieves, and many winemakers seem to think their Pinot Noir won't sell if it's too pale in color. In California, a little Syrah is often added to Pinot Noir to boost the color--and often to the detriment of the distinctive Pinot Noir flavor. Brief tasting notes follow.

2008 New Harbor Vineyards Marlborough Pinot Noir
A fairly typical, pale, Pinot Noir sort of color. Closed nose, but hints of leather, orange water, and red raspberries. There was a suggestion of cloves as well. Moderate acid on the palate. Light tannins. Not badly balanced, but rather simple. Moderate to good length. Doesn't really evolve in any way on the palate. Perfectly acceptable everyday wine--I've had much, much worse cheap Pinot Noir--but this offers no special attraction either. Reasonably priced at $4.99, but I won't be going back for more. That said, this was the best of the three wines I tasted.

2008 Sacred Hill Central Otago Pinot Noir
Pale, slightly garnet-tinged, typical Pinot Noir color. Slightly deeper in color than the above wine. Citrus and leather on the nose. Initially appealing on the palate but quickly begins to seem too sweet. Smooth--rather too smooth. There is little acid to balance the sweetness and very little tannin either. Very long finish, but a finish without nuance--just a lingering nondescript fruity sweetness. Flavors tend toward cherries. Not unpleasant. Essentially, just boring. Priced at $5.99 a bottle.

F. W. Langguth "Black Slate" Rheinhessen Pinot Noir
A pale tea color--red tending toward brown. Some floral notes on the nose. Marmalade. Bubble gum. On the palate gives an initial impression of sweetness with fairly low acid. Shortish on the finish but with some lingering sweetness with vaguely port-like flavors. Not really recognizable as Pinot Noir. Has some odd flavors that suggest plastic--although the wine is not as bad as that may make it sound. Drinkable, but not very attractive or interesting--beyond the interest provided by an opportunity to experience Regent (see above). That said, I'd prefer to try a 100% Regent wine for that purpose. Priced at $3.99 a bottle.

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

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

Books I'm Reading: The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker

I've wanted The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2004) since it appeared, but never got over the hurdle of the $60.00 price tag (although the book is doubtless worth that much). With the collapse of Borders, I was able to pick up a copy cheaply at that company's going-out-of-business-sale. I read the book in virtually one sitting--all 655 pages of it (although there isn't a lot of text). Like so many other people, I love the wry, somewhat surreal feel of so many of the cartoons that appear in The New Yorker, even if I get to see them only occasionally. Now I own them all.

The cartoons are presented by decade, from the magazine's start in 1925, each section preceded by an essay about the cartoons of the era. In addition to introductory information about the magazine and the cartoons, there are short essays about individual cartoonists important in the magazine's history--Arno, Thurber, Addams, Stein, Steinberg, Booth, Ziegler, Chast--and essays about some of the themes recurring in the cartoons over the years, such as drinking, nudity, television, the space program, business culture, slipper dogs, politics, and the Internet.

I say smugly that I finished the book in short order, but I initially misunderstood the meaning of the note on the cover saying the book "includes two CDs with all 68,647 cartoons ever published in the magazine." I thought that meant the cartoons were also on the disks, as a convenience. I failed to think about the sheer volume of work here. As one of the introductory pieces in the book points out, printing all 68,647 cartoons on paper would require an impossibly fat book (or multiple volumes)--nearly 23,000 pages--even putting three cartoons on a page. The printed portion of The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker presents only about 3,000 selected cartoons. The bulk of the material is on the two CDs, and I haven't even freed the disks from their packaging yet. While my mouth waters at the thought of the hours of entertainment latent there, I'm afraid to start looking at the disks, knowing it will be hard to stop. I'll want to read and enjoy every one of the remaining 65,000-odd cartoons without a break. I'll miss meals, neglect family, work will suffer....

Recommended at just about any price. 
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