Archive for August, 2009

Shower beer.

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

by Erin

There are plenty of Friday nights when the rest of the world is out pounding the pavement, drinking it up at bars, clubs, rock venues, and house parties all over the city. Drinking, and probably drinking too much. After all, it’s the weekend! What we work for all the week. A time to unwind, be social, and do things ill-advised for tamer evenings, like Tuesdays.

Unless you work in the hospitality industry, that is. We of the bizarro schedules are usually working our hardest on Fridays and Saturdays, while early on in the week–school nights!–are usually the best times to really tie one on, if so inclined. It is a fine balance; plenty of my friends work ‘normal people hours’ and as such they expect me to come hit it, hard, with them on weekend nights. And sometimes I join them, occasionally making a visit to Jim’s Original before the Sunday shift a complete and total restorative necessity. All that said, there are plenty of weary Friday evenings when I refuse to join the crowds and instead opt to settle in, have a glass of wine, maybe two, and conk out.

When thinking of drinking, I feel like many people have some idea about when it ‘should’ occur. Of course, this idea varies tremendously across different cultural groups. Many French will drink some wine with lunch, while here in the States, we joke about having to wait until 5 PM to have a cocktail–and then go get obliterated. For me, I sometimes opt out of when it’s ‘normal’ to have a few drinks, like on the weekends. But I do sometimes just want some wine, or a beer. In the morning. And so, if I am not heading to work, I have one! And that, my friends, is balance– don’t drink if you don’t feel it. And have a beer if you want one. I recommend the lazy morning shower beer, personally*. Try it out sometime!

*A special occasion variation is the shower flute of Champagne.

Drinking at Work: Rodenbach Grand Cru

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

By, Colyn and the “Employee of the Year,” Kelly

It is important at any given shift at LUSH to imbibe in some delicious potables.  Colyn and I (or Kelly and I, depending on who is writing at any given moment) have a tradition of sharing a beer and enjoying Jim’s.  However, today Kelly is resisting the call of Jim’s sweet sweet hot dogs and only indulging in delicious beer.  Rodenbach Grand Cru to be exact.  Mmmm sour ales!  How wonderfully perfect on a Friday evening in fall, oops, it’s still August, but you know what we mean.  Pause for sip.  Colyn believes it smells like a track with a hint of gym shoe (in a good way, ie, not Colyn’s gym shoe).  Kelly (giving Colyn a sideways glance at that last comment) believes it has more of a stinky sour patch kid.  Yum, so tart and refreshing.  Actually, it’s really refreshing.  Probably one of few dark, oak aged beers that you can say that about.  We would love to write more and explain how it tastes in many details, but alas, there is work to do and the bottle is still full.  Come check it out for yourself, it’s well worth it, we promise.

Happy Friday everyone!  High Fives all around!

A Quick & Dirty Intro to Bordeaux: Right Bank vs. Left Bank

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

In honor of our Merlot tasting this week, we thought we’d talk a bit about this grape’s birthplace and noble heritage, which lie in the tumultuous and prestigious river banks of Bordeaux. Being the largest fine wine region in the world, and having no fewer than 57 appellations to speak of, with loads of history, intrigue, and hype, Bordeaux can be a little bit intimidating to the everyday wine drinker. But lucky for us, there are a few sweeping generalizations that can be made about Bordeaux, which can help us to get a grasp on this all too mysterious region.

Let’s talk about the rivers: Bordeaux is cut down the center by the Gironde Estuary, which splits apart into the Dordogne River and the River Garonne. You’ll hear a lot of wine folks talk about Bordeaux in terms of ‘Right Bank’ and ‘Left Bank’, and the land that straddles these rivers is exactly what we’re talking about. The Left Bank/Right Bank distinction, however, is not just something wine snobs throw around to look smart: it is the most fundamental step to understanding Bordeaux. Not only does a huge shift in terroir occur from one bank to the other, there is also a major switch in terms of grape variety planted (and if you master this one little bit of information, you will know a lot more about Bordeaux than you think!): Merlot is the dominant planting on the Right Bank, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant planting on the Left Bank.

If you can remember a few other differences between the Left Bank and Right Bank, you’ll have enough info to not only make some educated wine decisions, but also impress friends at cocktail parties (well, maybe).

Left bank:

  • Planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Gravelly top soil with a limestone bedrock. The stony top soil makes the vines reach down deep for their nutrients, creating a more desirable environment for old vines that create age-able wines.
  • Generally flat
  • Most famous regions: Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, St. Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, St. Julien
  • All the original chateaux from the original 1855 classification are on the Left Bank.

Right Bank:

  • Planted largely to Merlot, with a lot of Cab Franc, some Cab Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Limestone emerges at the surface here (rather than being buried, as it is on the Left Bank). Gravel is less predominant. The only exception is the Pomerol (called by some a mini-Medoc), where a tributary of the Dordogne has dumped millions of tons of gravel and created a bed rock of sandy clay deposits and a layer of iron rich sands.
  • Generally flat as well, with the exception of St. Emilion and Cotes de Castillon, which make a dramatic slope toward the river.
  • Most famous regions are St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.

Both the Left Bank and the Right Bank are home to some fantastic wines (and even — shocker! — some good value wines). And the best way to get a grasp on the differences is to taste, taste, taste. Hard work, we know.

Posted by Jane.

On Plastic Cups

Monday, August 24th, 2009

As much as ‘wine people’ talk about the right glassware to drink out of, with our cognac glass different than our American whiskey glass, our Cabernet glass different than our Burgundy glass, there comes a time when we all drink wine out of a plastic cup (or maybe even paper!). Perhaps it’s a street fair; it’s a concert in the park; it’s a Sunday picnic. In these situations, it is ridiculous to even think about the ‘proper’ glassware. But the question arises: if you know that you’re going to be drinking out of a plastic cup, what do you drink? If you know that the ‘glassware’ d’jour is actually plastic and horribly unsuited for fully expressing a wine (yes, I am a wine geek at heart), what do you choose?

I was presented with this exact conundrum the other day when heading to an outdoor concert at Grant Park with my family. A casual picnic dinner that needed a couple bottles of wine (and, of course, my parents volunteered me to provide said bottles). So what tastes best out of a plastic cup?

And there lies the answer: what tastes best. The aroma is going to be lost to some extent. The slanted little sides of a plastic cup provide no room for swirling; all the luscious smells fall flat and recede against them. So you need a wine that is both wildly aromatic (to get even a faint hint of what the smell should be), but more importantly, super flavorful. Subtlety is lost in plastic cups. And younger wines tend to work better. Nothing that needs any ‘opening up’ is going to work. You don’t bring a decanter to a picnic.

And, I suppose, the most obvious answer to the question at hand is also: something cheap. Because, let’s face it, you’re really not getting all that the wine has to offer.

So, armed with these general notions, I chose the following for a Friday night listening to music in the rain at Grant Park:

1. 2008 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy

Probably the weakest choice of the three. A little too subtle on both the palate and the nose to beat the plastic cup. A truly lovely wine, though! I am a huge fan of all the Scarpetta stuff. Very tropical on the nose, with notes of papaya and pineapple. Delicate and fat on the palate, with fruitiness up front balanced by a bitter floral finish and great stony acidity. Lavender, pear, and even a leesy note. Just awesome.

2. 2008 Tcherga Cab/Merlot Rosé, Bulgaria

Totally worked in a plastic cup! You still got faint hints of watermelon and strawberry on the nose. A less acidic rosé than most, with a nice roundness and a hint of sweetness. Very playful and fresh. Great with a shrimp salad and some fresh fruit.

3. 2008 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro, Lodi, California

My favorite of the three. This is a light, young, fresh, low alcohol red that is outrageously flavorful and aromatic. Smokey, with loads of grilled strawberries and raspberries, and a chalky minerality. Pristine, plush texture. Goes down easy and invites sip after sip. The plastic cup had nothing on this wine.

The night was a smashing success, and everyone really liked all three wines. And no one had any idea how much thought went into choosing what wine they would be drinking out of a plastic cup.

Random Snippets: Edition #3

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Noble Rot Such a great name for a fungus, huh? Noble is defined as being ‘impressive in appearance,’ which would explain this perfectly. It’s impressively disgusting to look at in fact. So disgusting that grapes that are affected by noble rot in regions that are not familiar with it will discard it. Imagine if the folks in Tokaji did that, oh, my heart! I think a single tear just ran down my face. Ok ok, enough drama, let me explain what all this is about.

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Worth the Effort: Wachau Riesling

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

In honor of our Riesling tasting this week, I wanted to talk a little about Austria. Oh, Austria. With your crisp, slatey whites. Your funky, quirky reds. Your adorable red and white striped capsule-tops. And, alas, your confusing label jargon and regulations. (more…)

Professional Development

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Us Lushes are lucky. Getting together after-hours, tasting wine, and talking about it counts as staff training. A few weeks back we met up at my place after the shops closed. The assignment: each Lush to bring a bottle of wine that we currently carry. Single varietal. White. In a brown bag. I provided some snacks (including a dish we are all now OBSESSED with: shaved zucchini with olive oil, mint, and pecorino cheese…yumm!) and we started out with a little cocktail of Barros White Port and Q Tonic. The stage was set for some prime blind tasting. (more…)