WBW#43 Round-up: Comfort Wines!

So yes, its finally here. I apologize to all those who’ve graciously met the deadline that I went and slipped! Tell you the truth, I am only NOW getting my own chance to take a breath and relax. I started last night, after my daughter’s second week. She’s an angel, healthy (well, healthy lungs THATS for sure), and Mom is doing great as well. The house is just about done, had to tweak a few things for the city to approve the construction (if you don’t know the background, my contractor abandoned my project – a home addition for the new baby – just before the holidays and my Dad and I had to finish it ( good thing Dad know’s what he’s doing!!!). So that’s done.

The OpenWine Consortium is now humming along with 530+ wine trade people networking and socializing and familiarizing themselves with using a social network online with great effectiveness! I’m getting all sorts of good feedback and seeing business connections and personal connections (the wine trade is a tight knit group) being found and/or being rekindled. That brings a smile to my face! That too was alot of work. Not necessarily the programming, I found a great platform to run the site, but getting the right elements of the wine trade to use the site and tell their friends. Now there are CEOs, Wine makers, fellow bloggers, importers, tradeshow producers, you name it and they’re all there using the site to the tune of hundreds of absolute unique visitors per day staying an average of 11mins each (according to Google Analytics). It surpassed this site (which has healthy traffic) in the first two weeks! And we’ve only just begun. I’m signing up corporate sponsors and getting ready to do some great things for the industry. Very exciting.

Ironically, I was pressuring myself to get this post done and that’s the most stress I’ve felt in about a week! But that’s Type-A Joel being Type-A Joel. Reading through the entries made me calm down a bit. In fact, like many of the entries, this very write up made me stop and think about “smelling the roses”. Its like I tell my wife (a SUPER Type-A), you need to somehow get “Relax” as an action item on your priority list. If writing something for this topic was that action item (which it seems it was for many people) then I’m really glad I picked this topic!

The entries have been a real pleasure to read.

So for my entry, I actually grabbed a bottle of Enkidu 2005 Russian River Valley Syrah that Agent Red of WineSpies.com gave to me as a gift at lunch the other day for the new addition (to the family, not the home) and read on with great enjoyment!

The Enkidu is the product of what I think is a fairly new winery in California. It had a DEEP purple, ink-like quality. The aromas were nice and an delicate with a little pepper, black cherry (cherry coke as my wife described it), and some smoke in there I could swear. Smooth and very well balanced (you weren’t going to get the heat from the alcohol in this wine!) the black cherry comes through nicely with a smoky pepper finish. The Wine Spies have a the stuff on their site so if you can get it shipped to you I highly recommend it! Secretly, while it was a gift I think he knew I’d be back on the site to get a case lickedy-split! Great stuff!

So on to the entries.

Let me start with one of my favorites. I don’t know why but when I read this it made me feel pretty cozy. Claudia at ChronicNegress chimed in with a Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec 2005. Now, this whole entry – from its brevity to the simplicity of her relaxation, to her slightly off-beat name, just made me smile. She also lists my Alma Mater – MIT – in her Friendster profile. On OpenWine Consortium, which she has recently joined, she describes herself as a “Negress of some distinction”. Love it! She suggests kickin’ this Malbec with “flannel pajamas, burrito leftovers and split pea soup with Tabasco as food pairings to savor.” Why? Cause that’s how she rolls…

Dr Debs, from Good Wine Under $20, is the unspoken inspiration for this theme. A little while ago she wrote a post about wine and her childhood that made me think of my little girls. I relish the fact that those things that I remember so fondly about home and translate into making my life and home so comfortable (you know, a memory of Christmas morning or playing soccer with Dad) are now what I am imparting on my little girls. Deb posted about how fondly she recalls the nights with wine on the table in her parents home and how drinking it to this day brings her back to those warm memories. It would fill my heart with unending joy if one day one of my girls wrote something that nice about something I may not even be paying attention to right now but that they are going to carry with them into adulthood as a fond memory. Its one of the small, odd reasons you become a parent.

So that became the inspiration for this theme. I wanted to hear more experiences and what better way then hearing how everyone integrates wine into their lives in a positive way (who knows, maybe one day your little one will remember your relaxation and wine routine as well). All that being said, its apparently a contest between Deb and I on who is going to give more love to the other because as I was inspired by her post she one ups me on her entry by dedicating the wonderful 2001 Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Chauteuneuf du Pape in honor of the birth of my daughter. If you read the post, yes, its true, I Twittered (or Tweeted?) the birth of my daughter Alex from the labor and delivery room of the hospital. Up until I had to be “hands on”. While I think Twitter is the hallway conversation of the Internet and sometimes valuable conversations are lost never to be acted upon, I thought it was kinda cool doing that …demented and sad, but social… Thanks Deb.

Joe at 1WineDude gives a great mini-history of Chauteuneuf du Pape, his comfort wine, but also tells the story of his choice. Turns out his younger brother had a struggle with a congenital heart defect that nearly took his life. CDP floods his soul with the feeling of relief as it was the wine they all shared when they finally knew he was going to be alright. Joe, thanks for sharing. This really is what this topic is about and you brought in the backbone to this Meritage of a tasting theme. Thanks brother.

Along those same lines Catie, the Walla Walla Wine Woman we all wove and winner of the wine illiteration contest, has the best quote:

Now you might think this seems odd, but everytime I taste Waterbrook Melange it tastes like Autumn in Walla Walla. And don’t ask why or what Autumn tastes like, but there must be something about the taste that seems to trigger a special moment or event in that time frame.

Check out her Washington (state) selection Waterbrook Melange, produced in the Walla Walla Valley.

Erika Strum of StrumErika.com goes with a Gnarlier Head 2005 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel which she attributes some of the “relaxation” to the high alcohol content. I disagree, unless you get lit off a glass or two. In which case we need to watch out when the Strum sisters hit Vegas again!

Michelle at Wine-Girl gets into the groove by starting with her comfort food – for her Mac and cheese or chicken or dumplings – and she seems to be having a heck of a time herself so I’m glad this posting made you sit down and reflect Michelle! Carol at PourMore analyzes her comfort foods as well to arrive at a good QPR, accessible Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel and she catches on to a theme through out a bunch of these submissions – comfort wine should be easy enough to add to “relaxing” experience…unless judging a wine competition is your idea of relaxing then easy isn’t a bad way to go!

Sean at Interwined video submits a tasting of California Bordeaux blend 2000 St. Clements Bordeaux blend (Meritage) which he uses to get comfy and cozy on those cool London evenings. Nice job on the video! After my software crashed I wish I just video taped this round-up!

Diane at Loveswine gets into the spirit of things with a really comforting sentiment. She has her Calgon moment (Calgon was an old bath soap brand that had a relaxing commercial that chimed “Calgon, take me away!” probably 20 or so years ago…man I watch too much TV) with a a bottle of Taylor Fladgate 10 year old Tawny Port. I can definitely picture this scene – “I fill the glass to the brim and slip into the tub. Aahhh. I’ll stay there for half an hour, and sometimes I’ll call to my husband to bring me a little more. The nutty, caramel flavor and stronger alcohol work like charms for me.” That’s what I’m talking about. Did I mention my new home addition includes a 72″ spa tub with German fixtures. Why 72″? Because I’m 6′ 3″ and Diane and I have similar rituals!

Farley at BehindtheVine goes for a flight of Sparkling wines with the support of fellow sparkling wine lover Michael at FoodandWine who kicks in a Avinyo Brut Reserva Cava, while Kori at WinePeeps dives into a good wine (2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz) while picking up a book he’s been meaning to read for while.

Marcus of Doktor Wiengolb tries to get us to think about which kind of comfort we’re looking for with some extensive, well wriiten notes on cozy Grenache and Luxurious Chauteuneuf du Pape. Lia Huber takes that concept one step further exploring several wines with several situational relaxation postures – First day of summer, gathered around a fire, on a picnic, eating crab, with a winter braise, or just eating pizza on a weeknight Lia knows her relaxation wines! Now this is in stark contrast to Alex from Leeds in the UK who say that if she were to relax it would be with Château de Goëlane Bordeaux Supérieur. Alex, take my advice – you’ll save two hours of debugging code for 30 minutes you take to enjoy the wine life! When you’re going to that vineyard in the sky and taking your last breaths I’m pretty sure you’re not going to say “I should’ve commented my code better…”, but you might say “I wish I had finished that last bottle of Enkidu 2005 Syrah that’s in the cellar….”

Ryan and Gabriella go down the path that Marcus started and suggest that “comfort” of wine suggests the characteristic of the wine and therefore there are several that fall in that class. That wine that is just plain good and allows you to enjoy what makes you happy rather than think about the intricacies of the wine are what you’re looking for. Nice post, definitely worth a look. Roija brings Hank from Honest-Foods back to a time when he was first venturing into wine. When things seemed simpler as each and every bottle he opened (from Roija) was solid. I think we all have a similar memory. Its runs like that which spark our collective passion and we end up spending the rest of our lives in pursuit of more runs of that nature! Hank breaks out a nice 2000 Herederos del Marques de Riscal Riojo Reserva which sounds like something Ryan would enjoy because, according to Hank, “It lets you do the thinking; all it does is listen.”

John at CorkDork has his take on on a similar idea. While not necessarily advocating going with the straight forward, he wants to simplify the wine choice to enhance the experience. To that end, you’ll find John relaxing with a wine he knows will be consistently good so its more a matter of what you want that good wine to go with rather than worrying about if the wine is good in the first place. I can get with that logic!

RichardA at Passionate Foodie gives a counterpoint to that opinion. Reflecting on his favorite comfort wine is actually what relaxes him. Thinking about the complexities and the sheer artwork of his Pleiades XVI without the pressure to write up a note or judge it for any competition is what recharges his soul. Tim Elliot of Winecast.net agrees and chooses the muscular yet balanced Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley 2004 as it takes him back to his early journeys in wine.

A few entries roll in that get straight to the point: Andrew at Rougeandblanc goes for simple, uncomplicated with good QPR 2003 Royal Oporto Douro Porca de Murça Red, Dale from Drinksareonme is more than ready for the ultimate relaxation time – summer – with his 2006 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, Catherine at Purple Liquid just gets back from France and perks up with a glass of 2004 Chinon Domaine de la Noblaie Les Chiens-Chiens, Sharon the Bloviatrix is new to wine (be sure to head over and welcome her with tips!) so she submits a recommendation she received – Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Cote du Py Vieilles Vignes 2006, all while Joe in Montreal warms up the cold winter nights with 2000 Penfolds Bin 389 by the fire (great picture of the Penfolds in a snow bank!).

Jeff at GoodGrape (my American Blog Awards Graphics arch-nemisis ;-), goes for something that he feels the need to defend a bit, but I think if he reads through this he’ll realize that the are many that go with straight forward and easy when they relax and you really don’t need to defend it! His choice? 2005 V. Sattui “Crow Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel. I mean, even Dave at Winections agrees and goes for a “fruit bomb” that is so straight forward that there’s no need for analysis, he just likes it!

And yes, Jeff beat me out for ABA Graphics last year. I’m just having a bit of fun. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a stalker.

Turns out that when she’s not boiling the ocean, Megan of Wannabewino is knockin’ back her favorite varietal. She had to go with a whole varietal because of he tendency to boil the ocean… just kidding – who says there are no inside jokes embedded in WBW write ups. She chose it because it (Zinfandel) evokes good memories, puts a smile on her face, and almost always puts her in a good mood.

Don’t worry because Jill of Domain547 is right there with you Megan! In fact, she goes even broader detailing why the pursuit of wine is in and of itself the fulfilling adventure.

Jim Eastman kicks back in Ohio, listening to Nina Simone, with a very unique selection – a wine from Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin who produces a Prairie Fume off-dry white wine made entirely from seyval. He explains what Seyval is and the fact that its hard to find outside of Wisconsin, USA!! My wife’s from Green Bay so I’ll have to give this one a try personally. You can’t tell a CA brother he can’t find a certain type of wine! Now I HAVE to find it!

David McDuff relays how a bottle accidentally cellared (i.e. you know that one you threw in there a little too far back and 10 years later, when you’re reorganizing, you stumble across it?) can lead to a very rewarding and comforting experience. Its not something thats re-occurring but a serendipidous addition to the “comfort wine” theme. Very interesting read.

Marta from RecentlyConsumed is making me jealous – a great blog design, a great pairing of three great wines with three bad movies, and the ability to enjoy them all, as she puts it, in “a night of comfort between cynical newlyweds enjoying their pre-children freedom”. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re cute, you’re young, you’re still in “that phase” of marriage. Thanks for reminding me… ;). In all seriousness, nice addition to the comfort stories and definitely a blog to check out! And contrary to what others might tell you, when you’re with the right person you MAKE the time to remember “that phase”. In fact, this post is one that makes me say “yeah, I’m gonna do that!”, so personal theme objective achieved!

So thats it. I have to say, I am really happy that the topic was so thought provoking and for all those that had to sit back and take a moment to realize how much wine is actually a part of your life and your relaxation all I can say is I hope you take more occasions to Enjoy the Wine Life!

Cheers!