"LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! Life's a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death"
attributed to Mame Dennis

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wine Blogging Wednesday: Gamay

2007 Gamay
Sheldrake Point 
(Finger Lakes)
"An Estate wine produced entirely from Gamay Noir grapes grown in two blocks (about 3.3 acres) in our 44-acre vineyard located on the west shore of Cayuga Lake.
On October 5, 2007 5 tons of grapes were hand-harvested (22 Brix, 8.2 g/L Ta, 3.29 pH) then crushed and de-stemmed into a stainless steel tank. The wine was fermented on the skins (RB-2 yeast) with daily pump-overs. The fermentation temperature peaked at 91F.
The Gamay was pressed after seven days on the skins then racked into older, neutral French and American barrels. Malolactic fermentation finished by November 20, 2007. The Gamay spent six months in neutral barrels."

     I chilled the wine slightly for my first tasting last night, as this is how I understand it is traditionally served. This wine is ruby-colored, a beautiful, clear jewel-tone of medium intensity. The nose is floral, with aromas of white flowers, iris and violet which opened into red fruits, specifically red currant, with a hint of vanilla. The wine is light-bodied and dry with a tart acidity, which dominates the palate. There are notes of pomegranate, cranberry and under-ripe plum, with strawberry on the finish. More aromas and flavors were evident as the wine warmed up. I suspect the acidity of the wine would make it very food-friendly, so I am going to serve it with dinner tonight and see how that goes.

     The wine benefited from being open for a day, even though I Vacvin-ed it. Even served slightly chilled, it was more open and the red fruits much more evident on the nose. The acidity seemed to have mellowed, displaying softer cherry and (ripe) plum flavors with some nice, light spice reminiscent on the sandalwood on back of the palate.

     The wine was pleasant with the hodge-podge we had for dinner tonight: a little homemade margherita pizza made with some leftover whole wheat dough to start, and as well as the grilled mushrooms on the side. (I thought this would be good since the Gamay grape is related to Pinot Noir.) The best pairing was the roast pork slices that we warmed through on the grill. The fruit forwardness in this Gamay complemented the pork, and the acidity valiantly cut through the fattiness.

Thanks to http://drinkwhatyoulike.wordpress.com!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

As Argentine as Maté

As if our day at the cataratas hadn't provided us with enough adventure, we had a particularly eventful bus trip to Buenos Aires. Our bus left Puerto Igauzu around three p.m. The highways was being blocked by a group of maté growers, or materos, protesting unfair compensation. The price of maté to the consumer had increased, but the producers weren't seeing any of that money. This is similar to what is happening with milk prices in the US, greatly effecting the dairy farms in central New York, where I live, and putting many of them out of business. When I asked our bus driver why we were stopped, he blamer it one diez perejiles locos. While I can't translate this comment and retain the nuance, it literally means "ten crazy parsleys."

    Maté is a vital part of Argentine daily life (as well as Uruguayan, Paraguayan and Chilean) and national identity, especially in the northeastern province of Misiones where the bulk of it is grown. It is traditionally drunk out a gourd, dried and hollowed out, through a bombilla (left), a metal straw with a strainer at the bottom to keep you from sucking up the leaves, is a social event. The maté (the gourd itself) is filled with yerba (pictured below, the dried leaves from a plant related to the holly family), top it with almost boiling water from a kettle or thermos, drink, refill with water before passing it to the next person. The drink is bitter, so many people ad sugar until they develop a taste for it.

The traditional gaucho (Argentine cowboy) is often pictured with maté in hand, and for a time drinking maté was seen as old-fashioned and fuddy duddy. In the past decade or two it had been re-embraced by the young people, becoming popular with students. What better way to keep yourself awake while finishing that big paper or design project? An afternoon catching up with friends is undoubtedly spent matéando (Yes, the ritual of drinking of maté is so important as to merit its own verb) while munching on agridules (square little crackers whose flavor is a moreish combination of savory and sweet), perhaps followed by coffee and facturas. People fill up their thermoses at gas stations on long road trips, and families tote their maté and bombilla, along with a day's supply of yerba and hot water in specially designed carriers with them on the beach. You can even buy a disposable kit, in case you forget your own. (pictured above)
It got dark during the five hours we were stopped. Luckily, the beautiful, cloudless January afternoon turned into a warm, breezy evening. The bus drivers and passengers, alike, stood around smoking and drinking maté. Time wore on, the massive cue grew longer and thermoses were drained. The taxi driver ahead of us went on a mission, loaded down with thermoses, and returned to a big round of applause. He taxi driver had saved the day, and matéando continued!

Crisis averted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Iguazu Falls

A pot of chicken stock sits simmering on my stovetop. As I lift the lid to check its progress and inhale the wonderful aroma, the steam transports me to the hot and humid day three months ago when we visited Iguazu Falls. Here I am on the walkway approaching the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat, the largest of the falls at Iguazu.) See the mist in the background?

Near the spot where Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay all meet, this natural wonder is one of my favorite places in the world. When I first visited in August 2001, I never dreamt I would get to come back. I was spending that semester studying in Buenos Aires, and went to the Cataratas (falls) with several other exchange students from the US and Europe for a long weekend to see what all the fuss was about. I was  completely overwhelmed and took at least six rolls of film trying, in vain, to capture the beauty and the scale of this place.

In the summer of 2008, just before I came to the Finger Lakes for my cheese apprenticeship, I came back to Argentina with my mom and brothers. My mom had not been to Iguazu since she was 14, and was impressed at all the improvements to the park, including this trencito (little train) that takes visitors to the Garganta del Diablo. The national park provides excellent infrastructure to allow guests a phenomenal experience of the falls.
This winter, I got to share this magical place with Patrick. We arrived early in the morning after the 18 hour overnight bus ride from Bs As, checked our luggage at the bus station and caught the next local bus to paradise. Exhausted and running on adrenaline, we explored the park. I could never get tired of it.

   There are lots of opportunities to spot wildlife, some shy and others not. There was a reptile on the side of one of the walkways that I would never have seen, had there not been a crowd gathering to look at and photograph it. 

The coatís (long-nosed relatives of the raccoon) had all just had babies, and the park was overrun with them. We even witnessed one greedy coatí snatch a sandwich right off a picnic table. Clever little creatures!

That evening we rested a bit at our charming and comfortable hostel, Timbo Posada, then went in search of more wildlife, namely the fish native to the Parana and Iguazu Rivers. The main drag of Puerto Iguazu is made up of a lot of touristy souvenir shops and restaurants, but dinner on the terrace of La Esquina on that balmy night was a romantic and memorable meal. The dishes were well thought out, the portions generous and presented with real pride.

   Pat's surubí steamed in banana leaves came whimsically presented as sushi. The fish was similar in texture and flavor to catfish, which it is related to. The sauteed zucchini and peppers, both in and under the roll rounded out the dish nicely.

The fish I ordered, pacú, is a relative of the piranha. It was served with sauteed mushroom, onions and basil. I will have to try this surprising combination of earthy and fresh, green flavors at home. It worked beautifully.


¡Hasta la proxima, Iguazu!
 See you next time!