Llamas at the Wild Horse Winery, Paso Robles, CA: Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

July 31, 2014

Written by Michael Oudyn

We wine bloggers are at the Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards, in Paso Robles, California.

I share a snack with Floyd, head of the Wild Horse Winery clan of llamas

I share a snack with Floyd, head llama at Wild Horse Winery.

We have sampled a few high-octane Zinfandels at the neighboring Dusi Ranch and listened to an interesting talk on sustainable agriculture and marketing.  We have had an excellent buffet lunch and  tasted a few more highly original wines. Like Wild Horse’s Verdelho, one of the only California wines made from that grape; and “Pink Floyd” their highly original rose blend of pinot noir, cab franc, and sangiovese named in honor of Floyd, the first of Wild Horse Winery’s line of hard-working llamas. Unlike the nasty llama, I have done very little spitting today; I am ready to meet Floyd face-to-face.

“Llamas in the vineyards?”

“Of course. To protect the sheep.”

“To protect the sheep?”

The villain of the story, the  coyote

The villain of the story, the coyote

“Yes, from the coyotes.”

“What?”

Let’s let the winery explain: “We actually have three llamas… Floyd, the original. Then Dolly Llama, and her baby Sal (Salvador Dali Llama)…They protect our sheep. The sheep eat the grass and ground cover in the vineyards…We put an electric Read the rest of this entry »

Madeira: “America’s First” and “Most Patriotic” Wine for July 4th

June 28, 2014
Toasting July the 4th  with Madeira and Tom

Toasting July the 4th with Madeira and Tom

written by Michael Oudyn

July the 4th is just around the corner. So what should we patriotic Americans be drinking to celebrate our birthday?

Well, Madeira, the fabulous fortified wine from off the coast of Africa, gets my vote. Called “America’s first wine” and “America’s great patriotic wine” Madeira was immensely popular during colonial times and keeps popping up at key points in our early formative years.

One reason for its popularity was a tax loophole. British law forbade the colonists from importing goods directly from Europe; they had to pass through England and pay taxes and shipping costs. But Madeira was conveniently located off the coast of Africa and therefore exempt. And we all love a tax break; this much hasn’t changed. Read the rest of this entry »

Mon docteur le vin: Wine, My Doctor, cures all disease

May 19, 2014

mon docteur cover.2

written by Michael Oudyn

“If you drink Chablis with your oysters, you will never get typhoid fever. All doctors know this.”    This is my personal favorite from Mon docteur le vin. A charming watercolor shows a sophisticated Parisian family heading out of town because “of an outbreak of typhoid fever.” Apparently some ignorant neighbors just don’t know that drinking wine is “the best prevention for typhoid” and are drinking too much water. Read the rest of this entry »

Santa Nino, the wine saint of Georgia

December 18, 2013
stnino

Santa Nino and her “living cross”

written by Michael Oudyn

I first heard the story of Santa Nino, the charming Georgian wine saint, over a nice glass of Georgian wine at a wine-tourism convention in Umbria .  Back in Barcelona my Georgian friend Nata Samushia enthusiastically confirmed the basic story and filled in a few details.

The consensus hagiography goes something like this.  Santa Nino was from Cappadoccia, in Turkey.  While in a religious trance the Virgin Mary  gave her a double mission: convert Georgia to Christianity and introduce the Georgians to wine.  She also gave her a cross made out of grapevines.  Once out of the trance the future santa secured the cross  with a lock of her own hair, forming “a living cross” of grapevine and human hair.  Once in Georgia she converted the Queen to Christianity.  But King Mirian III refused to give up his paganism and was on the point of persecuting the Christians until he was struck with blindness and “lost in  darkness ” while on a hunting trip.  He prayed to “Nino’s God” and “the light returned.”  He Read the rest of this entry »

Sideways: ten years old and still aging well

December 8, 2013

sideways-03

written by Michael Oudyn

2014 is the 10th anniversary of the release of Sideways, undisputed most influential wine movie ever.  Credited with singlehandedly changing American wine-drinking habits, causing “pinot noir to fly off the shelves while merlot sales plummeted,” Sideways was largely filmed on location in Santa Barbara County, around Buellton.  It seems altogether fitting then that the American Wine Bloggers will hold their 2014 convention in Buellton, Santa Barbara County.  What better time to visit Buellton and revisit “the best wine film ever made?” Read the rest of this entry »

Abissi: a sparkler from deep beneath the sea

May 28, 2013

DSCN1416 written by Michael Oudyn

So here we are at Puritan and Company, an up-and-coming restaurant in Cambridge, MA.  The chef wins awards, the restaurant gets positive chatter.  But the main draw, for me at least, is an intriguing sparkler from Liguria on the Italian Riviera. None of us ever heard of it. It costs as much as well-known French champagnes.   We have pre-ordered a bottle: “only ten bottles left.” So what is it about Abissi?  Well, it is not your everyday sparkler, aged in a common cellar. It is lowered 200 feet under the sea in a noncorrosive stainless-steel cage where it is aged in Mediterranean salt water for 13 months. Thus, the name Abissi which can mean “abyss”, “deep”, or “hell.” The New York Times tells the story.  About ten years Piero Lugano Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Malbec World Day with a Big Mac

April 20, 2012

written by Michael Oudyn

The second annual Malbec World Day was celebrated on April 17. “One global superstar” was the slogan.

In a related story “Big Mac with Malbec” is McDonald’s latest value meal. You get a Big Mac, a beef empanada, and some Argentine red made from the Malbec grape. This innovation is probably NOT coming soon to an outlet near you.  Unless, of course, you are in Mendoza, the epi-center of the Argentina’s wine industry, where this burger-with-wine pilot is being launched during national Wine-Harvest Festival.

Malbec is the obvious choice of grape. Still going nowhere fast in its native Bordeaux and Loire, Malbec has adapted fabulously to the semi-desert, mineral soils, and high altitudes of Mendoza since it arrived in 1853 and is now Argentina’s signature export grape, like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  And it has achieved Argentina’s ultimate seal approval; it is one of only five food stuffs declared “Patrimonio cultural alimentario, and gastronomico argentino”.  This poor immigrant, “the French grape,” has come a long way. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change and the Wine Industry: “The Square Wine Cask of the 21th Century”

January 28, 2012

written by Michael Oudyn

Marbella is a playground for international jet-setters on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.  It is famous for its luxury yachts, expensive international shops, and beautiful weather.  It is notorious  for conspicuous corruption: its last mayor did hard time for real-estate chicanery after keeping the afternoon gossip shows buzzing for years with his romance with flamenco icon Isabel Pantoja.  His immediate predecessor as Marbella’s mayor did hard time for corruption after being the flamboyant president of Madrid’s second soccer team, Atletico de Madrid.  In the box-office dark-comedy super -hit “Torrente II: Mission in Marbella”, Marbella is a gross-out swamp of  international arms dealers. In the international best seller The Queen of the South by Perez-Reverte, state-of-the-art speed boats connected to Russian mafiosi make night-time “business trips” to Africa.

III World Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry

Last April Marbella was also the scene of the “3rd Annual International Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry.”   Kofi Annan was Read the rest of this entry »

The Decline and Fall of French Wine and Cuisine

March 12, 2011

written by Michael Oudyn

Michael Steinberger´s Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine And The End of France is a premier cru example of the popular sub-genre: The “Decline and Fall of French Cooking.”  The basic plot line is familiar to  Americans of my generation. Many, myself included, have lived it.

It goes something like this: Act I: Somewhere in France.  We experience The Great Awakening from boring American cooking, discover the joy of eating which enhances our joie de vivre. Steinberger´s revelation comes in the Loire Valley as an adolescent. The agent of his epiphany is the humble baby pea, drowned in butter, of course. Act II: We achieve The Ecstasy through a few truly sublime meals and become Francophiles. Steinberger amusingly relates such an experience. The three-star Au Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg is the venue. The chef´s signature dish, a stew featuring “a gorgeous pink-gray (duck) liver with black truffles” leaves him “whimpering in such ecstasy” that he grins Read the rest of this entry »

Saint Trifon the Pruner, Bulgaria’s Patron Saint of the Vinegrowers and Winemakers

February 20, 2011
St Trifon the Pruner with shears and nose

St Trifon with nose

written by Michael Oudyn

What saint do you immediately associate with February 14?  If you are not Bulgarian the answer is most certainly St. Valentine.  If you are Bulgarian another one might come to mind: Saint Trifon the Pruner, the patron saint of vine-growers and wine-producers whose pruning shears are the symbol of wine and fertility in Bulgaria.   Trifon is also called “the drunkard” because of his excessive love of red wine and “the noseless” because of a little encounter he had with the Virgin Mary.  According to popular legend,  Trifon was pruning his humble vineyard one day when The Mother of God happened by.  The future saint (hungover?) mocked and taunted her, saying she didn´t even know who the father of her son was.  The Virgin took offense and ordered Trifon to cut off his nose with his pruning shears, which he promptly did. Two questions come to my mind:  (1) Isn´t this an odd road to sainthood? (2) What would Dr. Freud think about having a man with a cut-off nose as a symbol of fertility?  Read the rest of this entry »


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