Thursday, May 24, 2018

Plants I'm Growing: Cactus "Scarlet Cup"

Once a year, fleetingly, the several varieties of cacti we have in pots on the deck give a good show. Perhaps my favorite among these is Echinocereus triglochidiatus, a type of hedgehog cactus known as scarlet cup, or claret cup, among other names. The flowers just began to open today. They will last perhaps over the weekend.--or maybe not that long.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wines I'm Drinking: Opening Old Bottles

Clearly, wines meant to age get much better when allowed to. I learned that lesson years ago the first time I bought a decent Bordeaux by the case and opened the bottles over a period of seven or eight years.

When I left Tokyo for the United States, in the year 2000, I shipped back with me more than 30 cases of wine accumulated during my 19 years in Japan, wine meant to age. The oldest bottles I still have are now about 35 years old. I've been reluctant to open these wines, because they deserve a special occasion, special guests, special food. Despite repeated invitations, opportunities to share with friends who appreciate fine wine have not often materialized. So, my stash of old wine has dwindled only slowly.

But there's no point in waiting so long that the wine has died by the time it's consumed. A few of these bottles will still improve. Some are already too old. Many are at the end of their optimal drinking window. So, in the past year I've taken to opening a few--if only to go with an everyday family meal. I've been happily surprised. They have been stored reasonably well, and most have remained vibrant. Recently I've had a 1998 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a 1990 Chateau Pez, a 1986 Chateau L'Angelus, a 1983 Chateau Lynch Bages, a 1986 Chateau Pontet-Canet, a 1995 Chateau Lafleur St. Georges, and a 1990 Penfolds Bin 407, among others. The Guigal  Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the '83 Lynch Bages, and the '86 L'Angelus were standouts. There's plenty more....

Wines I'm Making: Not Exactly Wine (Cider Fermentation, Spring 2018)

Not wine, but hard cider. I was surprised recently when I opened a bottle of hard cider I made a few years ago to find its flavor greatly enhanced by the aging. (I first made cider in February of 2013 then again in November of 2013, so the bottle I opened was four to five years old). Greater depth, more complexity--all around more interesting. I was inspired to do another fermentation, as I suspect the cider I have on hand will now start to disappear. I inoculated three gallons of local apple juice with Mangrove Jack's cider yeast today, May 22, 21018. Fermentation will probably take about 10 days.
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