Entering the Von Age

We’re going to give VoIP a try for a while. Best Buy had a hardware deal that I couldn’t refuse, so we’ll be using Vonage to see if it lives up to the hype. At the very least, we’ll save on our landline bills for a couple of months.

Oh, Vonage offers little carrots to its users for referrals. If any of you are interested, let me know!

Oh, and we’ve finally made a medical school decision. Stay tuned; I expect to have it posted within the next day or two.

Better less cold

I cracked open a new bottle tonight – a 2004 Peter Stolleis Riesling Kabinett Haardter Herzog Trocken. Riesling Kabinett is obvious enough in the name, and Trocken simply refers to the very dry style in which this wine was made. I don’t know what “Haardter Herzog” is, but it sounds like a name with much other significance.

This Riesling has a light yellow-green hue to it, with notes of nectarine/honeysuckle combined with a mineral character on the nose. Promising enough. My first sip of this wine, however, was overly grassy, lip-twisting and just weirdly tart. That wasn’t what I was expecting, and I was pretty disappointed. I’d heard good things about this stuff from the wine shop that sold it to me, and I was about to give up so easily; after all, German wines are hard to find here, and I’d never seen this one anywhere else. I set my glass aside for a few minutes, then tenatively took a second sip.

…Aah, much better. At a somewhat milder temperature, the tartness mellows to a much more pleasant level and balances out a playful palate of sweet apples and grapefruit, all the while presenting a touch of the expected mineral flavor. The finish is long, tart and mildly spicy, inviting another sip.

Earlier today, I surprised myself by succeeding at making braised barbeque ribs with my own two hands. The sweet and tangy meat was just falling off the bones, and I think this wine would have been a perfect complement to the meal. As nice as that would have been, I’m actually happy to have experienced it alone. Come to think of it, I’ve got a few of those ribs sitting in the fridge….

De-Hacked

…Well, that took less time than I expected. Things look more or less exactly the way they did before I lost my customizations.

Hacked

It would appear that my hosting service fell prey to some script-kiddie shenanigans the other day. All is well, sort of; the databases survived, so my posts and gallery photos are all safe. My WordPress theme, however, bit the dust and I never got around to making a backup copy. At some point I’ll have to re-write it, but that’s a pretty minor inconvenience.

Barboursville Blanc

In an effort to break my “blogger’s block” and get back on track, I cracked open a bottle of 2004 Barboursville Sauvignon Blanc. Barboursville is a small town near Charlottesville, in an area steeped with Revolution-era history and tradition. Thomas Jefferson’s mark is everywhere in the area, including (to some extent) the viticulture. As it turns out, Jefferson had visions of establishing European-style vinifera vineyards around his Monticello home and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Things might have worked out if phylloxera hadn’t wiped out the imported plants like it did in Europe. Barboursville Vineyards are keeping the dream alive by growing vinifera stock and turning the fruit into classic varietal wines.

This particular example introduces itself as a pale yellow wine in the glass, with a very light fragrance of grapefruit and minerals. It’s predominantly tart/tangy in the mouth and presents flavors of fruit, but the predominant character after a couple of minutes is herbal. There is light but lengthy herbal finish. I don’t normally drink sauvignon blanc, but from what I recall, this is a good version of that varietal. It has a rather subtle stage presence and would probably be best served with lighter fare, such as seafood or lightly seasoned poultry. The acidity of this wine would probably work well to cut rich foods, but not ones with very strong flavors. The finish might be unsettling after a while, and in some cases I noticed that it took on a surprisingly strong herbal trait, but overall this would be a good wine to pair with dinner. I found it best served cool, but not immediately out of the refrigerator. The taste goes decidedly more herbal — almost grassy — when the wine becomes too warm.

A Mild Gewurz

Alsace is known for a few prime varietals. Riseling is one of them, but another is represented in the bottle I opened tonight: a 2004 Willm Gewurztraminer. The first thing I noticed was its color; it’s definitely yellow and still rather pale, but somewhat richer in presentation than a Riesling from the same area. The nose is sweet, yet crisp, sort of like a honeyed nectarine mixed with Asian pear. Gewurztraminer is typically known for a somewhat stronger aroma, often with a “cat pee” quality to it; if it’s here, it’s very faint. This is a lively wine on the tongue, tingly and playful with its crisp character. I’m reminded of Fuji apples, a bit of tart plum, and perhaps a hint of citrus in the tangy finish. Speaking of finish, this wine displays some of the traditional Gewurz spiciness. My tongue was treated from a gentle tickling at first glance to a slow, subtle rasp after swallowing, like cinnamon gum without the heat. The spice fades away to a lingering sense of fruitiness after a moment, as if I had just eaten a slice of apple.

Overall, this is a competent wine that is unsurprising in its high quality. I can see pairing this one with either rich sauces or mildly spicy foods, contrasting or supplementing the nature of the dish. Drunk by itself, I find myself taking small sips to experience the transition from tang to spice to fruit over and over again. The truth is, however, that this wine is not what I would consider a perfect example of Alsatian Gewurztraminer. The flavor feels dilute to me, and I sense a little too much alcohol-related heat that detracts from the experience. Still, it’s quite pleasant and probably good enough to try again, although I’m curious to see what other wineries in the region have to offer with this tantalizing varietal.

Still Here, Perseverating

I don’t think it’s appropriate to post anything final at the moment, but it appears as though a decision has (mostly) been made regarding medical school. I will say this much — the benison of having a choice is not quite as perfect as I expected it to be, and decision-making at 28 is much different from doing the same at 22. I don’t really know where the appropriate compromise lies between idealism and practicality, but I hope we’ve found it.

A Nouveau Track

New year, new varietal. I love Rieslings, in case you haven’t noticed, but there are so many other great wines out there. Let’s try a new one, shall we?

There’s more to wines than just the taste. I was reminded of this as I proceeded to open tonight’s 2005 Jean Lafitte Beaujolais Nouveau, using my waiter’s corkscrew to slive and remove the foil wrapped around the bottle neck. The firm, elastic resistance as I wound the corkscrew into the freshly cut cork, the lively pop as it came out with little fuss and no crumbling — all characteristic of a freshly bottle vintage, and all part of the tasting ritual.

Poured into a glass, this wine takes on a deep plum color and a nose reminiscent of ripe red berries and (oddly enough) grape juice. There’s an unusual tanginess to this wine, a little twist on the tongue enhanced by moderate tannins. It’s fruity and bright, almost juicy, although I can’t really ascribe a specific flavor. The astringency and tart notes linger into the moderate finish.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes and intended to be bottled just months after the harvest. It is meant for immediate drinking, not aging; right-now enjoyment, not necessarily careful tasting and aging. For this purpose, and for the $10 price, this wine serves its purpose admirably. It went very well (and very quickly!) with turkey at our Christmas dinner, and it’s just as fun by itself tonight. Good times.

2006

Things to remember from 2005:

  • Two pink lines in February.
  • Seeing the blip and hearing the thump of our baby’s tiny heart.
  • Taking the MCAT in April.
  • Taking three finals in four days, just like old times.
  • Holding my breath, submitting my AMCAS application.
  • Seeing the shadowy images of a real head, real torso, real limbs…a real baby girl.
  • Buying a new interview suit.
  • Learning that all of my hard work was worth it.
  • Watching a spectacle so common, yet so unbelievable and beautiful.
  • Holding our little Emerson for the first time, brushing her baby-soft cheek.
  • Learning to care for her.
  • Seeing her smile.

Things to look forward to:

  • Seeing her learn.
  • Closing up shop, blazing new trails.
  • Jumping into an academic hellhole…and loving it.
  • Building our family, step by step.

Like Old Times

I was at a local grocery store last night when I found their extremely small German wine selection. It was relatively easy to find good German Rieslings in Ithaca, but the pickings are extremely slim down here; nevertheless, I took a chance and brought home a bottle of Dr. Loosen 2004 Riesling. Dr. Loosen owns a handful of vineyards in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany, known for its slaty soil and bright, lively wines.

This wine cost me about $14. I raised my eyebrows when I discovered that the bottle has no cork, relying instead on a metal screw-on cap! Not a good way to start a wine tasting, I thought to myself, as it poured into my glass and showed its pale yellow, slightly greenish color. My doubts vanished as soon as I lifted the glass to my nose. I was greeted with a flinty, floral scent with predominantly rosy notes. Ah, the scent of a good German Riesling — something I hadn’t experienced in years, yet instantly familiar like a good friend. The nostalgia trip continued when my tongue was greeted with a playful effervescence, proving to be slightly sweet and of medium-light weight in the mouth. There is a subtle undertone to the overall flavor of this wine, which reminds me mostly of bright grapefruit and plum. The acidity makes itself known in the bubbly texture and develops into a tart, tangy finish. Despite its sweetness, this Riesling actually has a nicely crisp and dry balance to it that invites another sip.

I did some research on this wine after tasting it. While Dr. Loosen does make several estate wines, it turns out that this particular wine is a blend, made of fruit purchased from vineyards located throughout Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. $14 is a lot of money to spend on a blend, but the money was well spent; this is a great casual wine, easily paired with food and priced well enough to enjoy in quantity with friends. It’s comparably priced to the Wiemer Riesling but distinctly and refreshingly German in character. Dipping into this wine immediately brought to mind my senior year at Cornell, the Introduction to Wines class that sparked my interest, lazy afternoons spent browing through Northside Wine & Spirits, rare warm spring days spent along the Finger Lakes wineries, all as if they happened last week and not nearly seven years ago. Not bad for a blend, and not bad for $14.

Of course, this is not a perfect German Riesling. I would really like to have more mineral character, and I feel like the fruit character is a bit too simple and uncomplicated. But it had most of what it needed — the invisible bubbles, the flinty nose, the crisp acidity — and that was enough to make me a very happy birthday boy. I’ve got to find a wine shop around here that takes German vintages more seriously.