Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pupusas from El Salvador and a good Pinot from the Santa Cruz Mountains

The other day, we were invited to a Pupusas party, one of the guests' mother being from El Salvador and a great cook. The pupusa is El Salvador's national dish, made of thick corn tortillas typically filled with cheese, pork, and beans and cooked on a griddle.

Freshly made and still hot from the skillet, it is really tasty but what to drink with it besides beer? Actually we found that Pinot Noir was a pretty good choice, especially if you avoided the extra spicy salsa.

We tasted the 2003 Muccigrosso Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains from Muccigrosso Vineyards, a small family-run winery in Los Gatos, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The owners, Michael and Lynne Muccigrosso, planted their first vines in 1983 and bottled their first vintage in 2000. Now they produce 800 to 1000 cases per year of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and a Syrah-Sangiovese blend called Table Two. The 2003 Pinot Noir was crafted by Jacob Kauffman, a yound talented winemaker who had gained his experience at near-by David Bruce Winery but who sadly passed away 2 years ago.

The wine had a bright garnet color and perfumed nose of sweet berries and violets. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with a good structure, elegant with a good amount of earthiness on the finish. Quite comforting, like the pupusas.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Something new and creative: a Metro Wine Map of France

Do you know that it's only in 1931 that the first schematic subway map was designed by English engineering draftsman Harry Beck? Before that, we had route maps that were solely based on geography. They were lacking clarity and had many overcrowded areas. Schematic maps are based on topology and therefore show a simplified, hightly stylized network of stations that is much easier to understand.

So can we apply the same logic to wine regions and appellations to simplify and clarify regional and geographical concepts to beginners? Dr. David Gissen, professor at the California College of the Arts, thinks so and has recently published a Metro Wine Map of France.

Dr. David Gissen is a historian and theorist of architecture and urbanism but he is also a wine lover who, after drinking a bottle of 2009 Morgon Domaine Lapierre at Chez Panisse, wanted to learn more about wine and its relationship with particular philosophies and places.

In a recent interview, Gissen explains what motivated him to design his Metro map.

“I was just very frustrated with the fact that some basic ideas about the relationships between wine and geography that seemed so simple to me, after my own tastings, were not actually expressed simply anywhere. Part of the problem is the way the geographical description of French wine relies on a very literal languages of maps. What I mean by that is that if you look at almost any book on French wine, the maps look like the kind of thing that an explorer would use. They're extremely literal, cartographic views, so that all the regions are drawn with very precise jagged-line boundaries, and you're supposed to understand that this particular terroir stops just below this particular Autoroute in France, for example, and so on.”

“My feeling was that you could explain some very basic geographical ideas and principles about French wine if you used a visual language that was relational and condensed. To me, that means the language of the subway map.”

If you want to find the “best subway stop from which to embark on your own journey of wine exploration”, you can get the map here. And if you want to learn more about Gissen's interesting perspectives on concrete vinification, wine glass shapes, terroir, and the re-framing of wine using an urban aesthetics, read the full interview.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

Hiking Mount Baldy and an ice-cold Coors Light after that

It was hot last weekend in Los Angeles when we dropped our daugther off at college so we decided to find some cool mountain breeze at the top of the 10,068 ft Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains.

An old ski chair lift from the 50s took us to the small Mount Baldy ski resort and from there we took the Devil's Backbone trail that goes up to the top of Mount Baldy with amazing views of L.A. on one side and the desert on the other side.

After the hike, we stopped at the Top of the Notch, the resort's restaurant, feeling hot and sweaty. The temperature was still in the mid-90s.

”What's the coldest drink you have?“ We asked the waitress at the bar. ”Coors Light“ she said witout hesitation, taking two frosty mugs from under the bar. I don't usually drink Coors Light but this time, I could not resist. As I took the first sip of my beer, I thought this was the best thing I ever drank. It was so refreshing, with a clean, mildly sweet taste, and for sure it quenched our thirst.

The Devil's Backbone trail

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