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Ch- ch- ch- changes!

Time may change me, but I can’t change time.

We are moving, and we have an ambitious schedule.  As of Monday, Lisa and I will launch this blog, but instead of at this URL, hosted on the Albany Times Union page for blogs.  Our new URL will be http://blog.timesunion.com/vinoteca.

I have a Liberty School Chardonnay, Central Coast (Paso Robles, CA) calming me through this transition.  I’m usually quite good with change, but we have a busy weekend ahead.  The entire family is working day and night at the Souvlaki Fest hosted at the Greek church tonight 4-9 pm, and tomorrow 11 am-8 pm.  We are just home from the festivities tonight, bellies full, dogs barking, overall content and tired. 

What we learned at the TU today, as we negotiated our move, and promised not to be pornographers or stalkers, was that you probably won’t read this post until you boot up your computer at the office on Monday.

So Happy Monday to you all!  Please come visit us on the TU blog site.  We will do email blasts, and we will drink wine.  We hope you join us, because we are enjoying the chat!


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So the rrrrrrroot of any word is Greek, according to Mr. Portocalos, in a great review of Greek culture.  (Another post is how accurate the movie might be, say, should one marry into a Greek family.  Ahem, NB last name of this blogger….)

The rrrrrrroot of our fruit fly infestation has been uncovered!  It has nothing to do with squishy fruit, or detached retinas.  It has everything to do with Concord grapes.

If you were raised in an Italian family, then at least five of your relatives had trellises with grapes growing all summer long.  Harvest was just around the corner, as fall came into its own.  If you stand in our driveway now, the sweet smell of Concord grapes is unavoidable.

My grandparents had trellises of grapes behind Grandpa’s wood shop.  The blue-violet fruit would hang down and tempt us as children.  There was a wooden cask in the basement of their house, with last year’s vintage brewing.  It is still debatable whether it was wine or vinegar brewing in that cask!

These grapes seem to evoke childhood in almost everyone we meet.  Today two contractors stopped over to give us an estimate on a stamped concrete patio.  When they saw the Concord grapes, as negotiations wound down, they buried themselves up into the vines, pulled down bunches, and groaned with pleasure.

It’s funny, but our kids do not seem to respond with much emotion to these Concord grapes.  You see, they have seeds.  And we have engineered seeds out of the fruit experience for the younger generations. 

Imagine that!  As an older sister – what would life have been like if I had been unable to spit watermelon seeds at my younger brothers????

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Please don’t leave me…

This is my ode to summer… or to summer on its way out the door.  The song is great background music while reading the post, but ¡OJO! the video is a bit disturbing.  I’m Pink:  “Summer!  Please don’t leave me!”  (Maybe it is more disturbing, now that I have drawn that metaphorical line between Pink and me?)

I am into white wines!  Summer!  Please don’t leave me!  I stopped in at the liquor store today looking for a nice Albariño.  Albariño shrieks “SUMMER!”  It is produced in the northwestern corner of Spain, in the Rias Baixas area of the province of Galicia (in kelly green).  It cries for fresh fish, pulled out of the water in the morning, thrown on a grill whole, and served to you that evening with the head still on.  The first year I studied in Spain, 19 years old, hailing from Central New York, I proudly declared “I don’t like fish!”  I refused throughout those entire ten months to even sample seafood, without realizing that I hated seafood because in Central New York it is NEVER FRESH!  (And my mother did not know how to cook it???)  (Please don’t tell Mom I said that.)

Older and wiser now, I take students to Spain and face the same naïveté.  (Yes, I am being kind to my younger self.) 

So I was in search of Albariño today, but my local liquor store had never heard of the grape.  Had I driven the extra five miles, I would have found several options at Empire Wine.  Instead, I found a Spanish white, a 2009 Shaya from Segovia.  It was thin and too fruity to be taken seriously.  It will be cooking wine tomorrow or Wednesday.  Search out an Albariño for this wonderful sunny fall week we have ahead, and find some fresh fish with the head on!

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Fruit flies and light pours

There are some things that just make me crazy when it comes to wine.  One of them is fruit flies.  The other is a light pour.

So the fruit flies appear out of nowhere.  As a conscientious soul, you eliminate all fruit on the brink of squishy.  Then the fruit flies migrate to your wine glass.  Now I am not one to look down on a little protein with my wine, but I prefer it to come in the form of cashews or maybe some soft, spreadable cheese.  My mother in law thought she had a fruit fly problem some years back.  She kept swatting at them for days!  She got rid of all the fruit, and still – she just couldn’t get rid of them.  Turned out her retina had detached from her eye.  So the next time you swat at the air – first get confirmation from a friend or family member that you are both seeing the same thing!

Short pours – UGH!  JUST FILL MY GLASS, PLEASE!  If you want to charge me more for it, then so be it!  But fill the darn glass!

On a more positive note, I am enjoying a (short pour – have plans later) Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay.  The wine has “notes of apple and toasty graham”, which happens to go beautifully with a chocolate chip cookie!  Again, Lisa inspires!  Mine is a store bought cookie – I will have to be patient and wait for the real thing from Lisa!

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Rebels or conformists?

One of the greatest expressions in Spain-Spanish is ¡OJO!  Literally, it means “Eyeball!” (Okay, I will provide a cultural translation: Watch out!)  Or all you have to do in Spain is tug at the skin under your eye, and everyone knows that you mean ¡OJO!  (Not recommended for women as you get older and start spending all kinds of money on eye creams to keep the skin taut…) 

So, why the ¡OJO!, you might ask?  Look at us – in a matter of six posts Lisa and I have moved towards conformity!  Argh!  First me, then her, then me, then her.  And then she goes and joins the PTA?  Okay, let me just say I have PAID the PTA, and never attended.  Damn! I never put my record on….!!

Spaniards like to think themselves complete and utter non-conformists.  It is part of the pleasure they get out of life.  They work to survive, not to compete with a neighbor over whose kid got into the more prestigious college.  They live for today, with some minor planning for tomorrow.  They, yes, smoke, and drink, and eat food we are told is “bad”.  They do not eat MickeyD’s several times per week.  Instead they linger over lunch at 2 pm (with a glass of WINE or BEER!!!), and make sure their employers allow them that personal time to spend talking and eating.

We had a great meal tonight – Seafood Chowder Casserole  from the latest Eating Well magazine.  I prefer to Eat Well, with good flavor, and I have to say that this magazine usually provides some 3-4 recipes per issue that make the subscription price worth it!  Dinner tonight was delectable!  And so was my Twenty Rows Cabernet Sauvignon (2007 Napa) as I have chatted about eyes and Spain and eating tasty food.

Our new challenge, Lisa – ¡no ser conformista!  The view from the outside is always so much better!

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What Would Grandma Do?

Thoughts on Grandma over a glass of El Coto Rioja, 2006, made from those luscious tempranillo grapes that Lisa was talking about.

I made stuffed artichokes for dinner last night, and could not help but think about Grandma Cichello.  If you grew up in an Italian home, you know that life centers around the kitchen, and holidays are all about what is served at the table.  Grandma Cichello was the most amazing cook in the world.  She could make left overs into an appetizer, a  main meal, a dessert or all of the above.  Her stuffed artichokes would make a believer out of anyone.

Grandma would have been just fine on Hell’s Kitchen, too.    She tasted as she cooked, adjusting seasonings along the way.  And she would have had a thing or two to say to Gordon Ramsey.  Not one to mince words.

To describe Grandma as “corpulent” would be a bit of an understatement.  But she used that extra girth to give the warmest hugs imaginable.  She would fold you in, smelling of flour or tomato sauce that had been cooking all day, or freshly fried meatballs.  And she never had favorites, or if she did, we never knew.  There were equal hugs for all.

When Grandma died, the one thing I took from her home was her salt container.  You have to reach in and grab the salt with your fingertips.  Every time I put salt in food that I am cooking, I hope that a piece of Grandma ends up in the meal.

So after I prepared my artichokes last night, I realized I had forgotten to mix in some minced garlic!  WWGD?  Argh!  Well, Grandma would never forget the garlic.  I sprinkled on some garlic powder, a miserable substitute.  Then I read Lisa’s blog entry.

Note to self:  next batch of stuffed artichokes – remember the minced garlic, and how about some minced jamon?  Yum!

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Why is it that having a glass of wine before 5 pm signals some sort of perversity?  Why does that glass of wine taste so good before 5 pm, say on a Sunday afternoon like today, with a light drizzle outside, and the house empty except for me and the dog?

I just opened a bottle of Megas Oenos 2006.  We like to call it “Big Ass Wine”.  (Say the name out loud to yourself, and you’ll understand why.)  It really is a big-assed wine, that opens up as it breathes.  Unlike Lisa, I am not good at picking out flavors in wine.  I take a sip, and I get a general thumbs up or thumbs down on my palate.  This beautiful red gets a big THUMBS UP.  It’s nice to find a Greek wine, too, that can stand up to Frenchies.

So back to the question of the hour – it’s not yet 5 pm, and I have a glass of wine going.  If a neighbor were to stop by, I might hide the wine.  No, I actually have some cool and fun neighbors (happily discovering “empty nest syndrome”).  Okay, so if the parents of one of my kids’ friends were to stop by, I would definitely hide the wine.

One thing Lisa and I have in common is that we were both profoundly influenced by time spent in Spain.  And a glass of wine at 4 pm in Spain raises not a single eyebrow.  It might raise a glass in friendship instead.  Where did we go wrong in the US?  Are we still living the hangover from Prohibition?

You know those moments in life where your brain takes a snapshot (because you never remember to carry your camera with you, idiot!), and that snapshot sticks in your mind?  I have one of those from a recent trip to Spain.  I was having lunch with two great friends, claro, with a bottle of fine Spanish wine.  There were three women at the crowded bar, somewhere in their late seventies.  They were dressed nicely, appropriate to their age.  And they were sharing a glass of wine and some memories.  My friends and I watched as they talked, laughed, and had some wine.  Where in the US does something like this happen?  We would judge them – lushes, off meds, crazed.  But instead, there they were enjoying life and the people in their lives, with wine.

The way it should be.

So cheers!  Here is to sharing wine with the ones that matter to you, when you so choose.  I for one will not judge you.

What a big ass!

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