Sunday, November 16, 2014

The OTHERS.

I: troglodyte, residence: Cave.  Turns out I share it with about 300 Others.

301: Last week began with a visit from a gentleman who closed his locker late 2012.  THAT'S LIKE TWO YEARS AGO. He came in to ask about a bit of product I'd given him then. This very special product is not available in California, could I get it again?  Well, sure, anyone can, just order some, here's the link.    He didn't want to order some, he wanted me to order some. And because this is The Cave, I did.

When he came in this week to get the order, I again asked him if he wanted the necessary links for future endeavors.  He said, "No, this way I get to visit you." Aaawwwwww, *sniff*.  Anytime, Mr. M.

Then The Deanster came into town.
 This is The Deanster.  He's like a new piece of furniture.  He's been here daily for the week. DAILY.

Last (my weekend) we went on the Tour de Wine Stores.  We managed to hit six wine stores from West LA to Glendale.

OH! and BevMo.  Seven.  Ish. (meaning BevMo is to wine what ... Bevmo is to... wine.) 

After he dropped me off, I went to Some Thing and VOILA!  There were two more customers!

Thursday not-really-morning, I was lolling in bed and had the epiphany that maybe M. kept telling me he was sleeping through the farmers market in hopes I would figure out to offer, " I go there every week, what can I pick up for you?"  (Troglodyte,  raised by wolves.)  A few texts on the bat phone and he would later come in to pick up his strawberries and blueberries.  Then he and The Deanster would peer over my shoulder for an hour looking at wine menus for restaurants I'll never go.  Did you know some wine menus are 70 and 80 pages?  I do now.

(PS: The Glendale farmers market closed at end of day Thursday, as in D-O-A. Not my fault?)

Since The Deanster was in town, we examined some new ideas, all generously proffered by above-said M.   The 1998 Capcanes Vall del Calas Tarragonawas was initially considered, and I'd tried it before...with better results, it appears.  Two years later, this stuff, to me, tasted like drinking Lavoris while chewing on lemons. No way, Lavoris still exists?  I haven't seen it since I was in my grandparents bathroom.  Okay, so get a lemon, throw it into a glass of Lavoris, and you've got wine. 

What I wasn't understanding was, Dean was saying, It's flat.  Flat?  That's all?  Brother, this thing has worst problems than mere flat.  Is it a desirable quality for wine to sometimes taste like Lavoris and lemons?  Is this a goal of some wine and I'm just not getting it? But you know how furniture is: unmovable. So I don't know the answer to this one. 

Instead we entertained the idea of the 2012 ArmAs  Dry Red Wine.  This wine is 92% Karmrahyut, 5% Areni, 2% Kakhet, and 1% Macguyver.  WAIT, that's 1% Meghrabuyr.  No merlot or pinot noir crap here, these are grapes all indigenous to Armenia.  After all I've been reading recently, I was deeply curious.

Last weekend I took advantage of a lingering summer to open the white.  It was crisp, apple-y, other fruity things, a bit heavy-handed but solid.  Last night I tried the dry red.  Really unusual, very prune-y and otherwise not grape-y in pedestrian ways.  I was intrigued.  The Deanster merely said it was "sweet."  Today, I confess, it tastes exactly like lemon flavored artificial iced-tea.

I'm not sure what's going on with all the lemony stuff, but I can tell you Dean has finally moved out.  We called in a van and some guys.  They were gentle.

Shipping season has begun, and Thanksgiving is soon. After many quiet, sleepy days at The Cave, it's good to see people I've not seen in months. It turns out there is LIFE here after all.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mission Wine and Spirits, redux.

Trader Joe's, those rats, (for leaving us for a bigger and farther location) opened their first store in Pasadena.  Now look at them!   Porto's Bakery and Cafe started in Echo Park, moved to Glendale, and has a store in Downey and Burbank.  Bob's Big Boy and Baskin-Robbins got their starts in Glendale.

You may also recall Glendale was home to one of the great-named businesses of all time, Hammered Liquor Store.  When they closed, Mission Wine and Spirits did a quick move-in while working out all the red tape Glendale has to offer.  They closed in May for remodeling.


 

Occasionally I'd stop in at their Glenoaks store to see when they were EVER going to reopen this location. Inside stories about The City of Glendale are always entertaining!  Today I was in there again and they said, "It's open." 

I said, "What am I doing here?  See ya."



Look!  Now open on Glendale @ Maple. 








An entire WALL of beer.  As of two hours ago that stuff on the right is on my bucket list.






Their separate wine room and still-in-progress wine tasting station.



Gary wasn't there, the store comes with a Gary.   Nice bit of fortune, he was driving in as I was riding out.
"Is it everything you hoped for?"

He was so happy.  He said, the beer isn't even close to what it will be, and of course the wine room is still in progress.  Yes, it will be everything he hoped for.

Nice guys, welcome (back) to the neighborhood. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Case of Perplexing Pinot.

The best part of being a troglodyte is I've the legitimate wine habits of a troll. Onward!

Here's what I understand about Pinot Noir:
.
.
.
.
(wait for it)
.
.
.
.
Nothing.
Okay, so here's what I gather.  There's this country called France and they have a bunch of wine regions.  For instance there is Bordeaux on the bottom left and that stuff is primo, lots of Chateaus and stuff. Actually I thought it was up higher, but that's Loire Valley.  Good thing I'm doing this.

Many recognizable regions, like Champagne, we all know what that is, and Cognac.

That little red chili pepper above that other chili pepper is Burgundy, and here's what I gather about Burgundy, other than it seems to attract a following in fanatic need of esoteric meanderings:  it's made from Pinot grapes. 

Also: it's very mineral-ly.  Burgundy has a lot of limestone and so the wine tastes very rock-like, or as one person put it, like sucking on a rock.  Which is like, why don't you save a few bucks and just suck on a rock?  But there's probably fruity things going on, too.  Either way, I get the sense that it's erudite stuff, Advanced Wine, not for amateurs and especially not for trolls or troglodytes.  

Okay.

In this country, there is Pinot Noir, made from...pinot grapes, like the ones that make Burgundy.  It turns out I've been drinking a ton of Pinots:  Castle Rock 2008, Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast 1994, Longoria Santa Rita Hills 2001, A to Z from Oregon and I could swear a Kosta Browne went down the gullet. 

This past weekend, oh what a weekend!  It was cooler, it rained real rain for a few minutes, and The Cave was finally busy.  Wine Weather!  I opened this, 2007 Road 31 Napa Valley, a guy, his dog and his truck.  That's all you need.










You know when you really want something and you get it right?  This was that.  Though I was expecting neither the deep red hue nor the rich, slightly spicy, front, it arced gracefully into a softer, gentler finish and this was a very satisfying wine.







But I didn't understand it as a Pinot Noir.  Like after six years I finally GET Cabernet, (yay!) but I absolutely don't GET Pinot.  It seems every bottle I try is a whole different wine idea.

This is in the Museum of Bad Art.  I kind of like it, actually. 













But the yardstick by which it is measured is clear.  Pinot Noir, not so much.











Okay, so Max was in yesterday and we discussed, and as he put it the Pinot grape is the grape most conducive to expressing terroir, so in limestone it would be mineral-ly and in the deep black soils of California it could be a bigger statement.  Add to that the hand of the wine maker, and a list of other variables.  If its nature is to be reflective of variables than it can never be defined.












 Which means Pinot Noir spelled backwards is Dog.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happy International Stout Day.

Happy International Stout Day.  And to prove the existence of gods or intelligent design, it is also National Nachos Day.  Dinner tonight is going to be AMAZING. 




I declare Old Rasputin Imperial Stout not only my favorite stout these days, but my favorite beer. 







When I first moved into The Cave and saw my bedroom, I was like, wow, this is cool, but can you scrape a few of those cherubs off the ceiling and maybe tuck in the edges of that blue tapestry on the ceiling to give it a cleaner look?  Okay, thanks. 

That's kind of how Old Rasputin tastes, decadent but restrained, a tasteful baroque by a feng shui designer.



This weekend I saw this at Whole Foods, Echigo Stout from Japan.  In 1944, Echigo became the first craft brewery in Japan. It's imported by Mutual Trading Company, the same people from whom I sourced the Iwate Kura Oyster Stout about this time last year.   I didn't know any of this when I opted it.  

Where Old Rasputin exudes sweet chocolate and floral notes, the Echigo Stout is restrained and buttoned up, a sturdy, old school stout. 





Like our living room.

(Stout 101)



Celebrate International Stout day wisely:



                                                                           Cheers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shipping Woes.

We got those.

Shipping hours (for businesses) are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The Cave hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 2 - 7 p.m.  You can see the potential problem here.

Except UPS, Fed Ex, GSO and DHL all ship to your business during posted business hours. That's great!  So if the shipping label states the hours, and the hours are in everyone computers, which they are, then The Cave and Shipping are a happy, song-filled team.

Not so much, actually.

Though The Cave has accepted direct shipments for a few years now, and more customers are taking advantage of this, it remains fraught with pitfalls and dangers.  And shipping season is just getting started.



So here's The Low-Down.

DHL.  Hardley ever see them, so far, so good.

UPS.   My UPS guy and I had it all worked out and then he got transferred a few weeks ago. And then it all went to hell.  I got some new kid who seemed nice enough, then one day I walked outside and there was a stack of four boxes just sitting there.  I was like, WHA?   Yesterday, Tuesday, I happened to be outside The Cave when The Cave is closed and who shows up but UPS.  That's when I met Cesar.  I asked Cesar why he was delivering to The Cave when it was closed, and when it says it on the label, and when it says it in his computer.  It was a promising chat, and we saw Cesar again today, during business hours.  Things are looking hopeful.  If he keeps the route.  He has to bid on it and wait to find out, so we'll see. 

GSO.  Yesterday, Tuesday, when The Cave is closed, about an hour before the UPS guy showed up, GSO showed up.  Now, this was my regular GSO guy, and the label was clearly marked to deliver Wednesday.  This was a less promising chat, part language barrier and mostly just because.  GSO is consistently the most difficult to deal with.  They often leave door tags on Tuesdays because wineries ship on Mondays, they claim, and they can't hold a package.  The wineries say its not them, it's GSO.  It will never be different. 

Fed-Ex.  Same Fed-Ex guy since day one, he just dropped off a package.  I adore him.  There is one guy who gets a lot of deliveries.  He brings them in and reads he guy's name and laughs.  "S_______ gets a lot of wine!"  Yes, he does.  Thank you for getting it here duly.

On Brand Boulevard between Wilson and California is the previous Kinko's, now Fed-Ex Office center.  They are open 24-7-365.  They are AC'd.   If you ship your wine there (you know, via FedEx), they will sign for it, and you can pick it up from them, any time.  Call them for details. 

Addendum, 11/14/14.  Today, a different FedEx guy came in with a few boxes, and I asked him where my usual guy was . (On vacation.)  I then thanked him for coming in during business hours.  He said, "Why wouldn't I, it's on the label."  'Nuff said.

Lastly, here's an interesting development.

East of here on Broadway, same side of the street and before Chevy Chase, there is a Mailboxes Etc.  Mailboxes Etc. is a franchise of UPS. In their window is a banner claiming they ship wine.  The gentleman's name is Joe, and he ships wine nationally and internationally.  He offers insurance.  A customer is moving to Florida and was asking me about shipping wine, a mostly expensive endeavor.  I suggested this guy, and he took a few cases to him.  I'll update this one as it plays out. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Summer's final gasp, we hope.

This week brings cooler temperature to the rest of you, of course it is always cool in a cave.  This particular cave, AKA The Cave, has been quiet, minus the crickets whom I've counted, tagged, and tracked.  Each cricket has his own tiny GPS.  Here is a map of one of the crickets, Henry.  This was just one night!










Since it's been a bit quiet around here, I've not been opening wine.  Or maybe I'm just drinking it all by myself.  Either way, here are a mere FEW samplings to catch up on, plus one astonishing end of summer foodie thing.

I finally drank all the white wine and opened this 2010 Bila-Haut.  Here's the long version:  2010 M. Chapoutier "Les Vignes de Bila-Haut" Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages.  (I heart copy-and-paste.)  It's made by some guy named Michel Chapoutier which seems to mean something to people. The wine is organic/biodynamic, and boasts the first wine label in braille. This was part of the Late Great Zachy's order of noted wines at affordable prices.  It is currently selling for $13.99 at K&L. This was a nice, pleasant wine.  It's like if you go to Trader Joe's and get a $6 wine that is a meh daily dinner wine, why not spend a few more bucks for a better daily dinner wine, which this is. 

Speaking of Trader Joe's, they moved, rat bastards.  (Am I allowed to say that on a family blog?)  They are now on the corner of Brand and Glenoaks.  "North of the 134," code for no longer in our humble ghetto that is South Glendale.  Trader Joe's is where I've pilfered empty wine boxes so my dear customers had something to carry out their wine. Nothing classier than your Bordeaux and Burgundy dressed up in a Chuck Shaw box, and it was convenient to carry armfuls of boxes, six or seven trips-worth, to The Cave.  Alas. 

Oh, say, here's a wine.  It is, was, the last of Plonk Part Deux.  As it's been going, it was over the hill in the most pleasant manner - boozy, caramelly.  What happened is I'd gone to bed and was wide awake at 3 a.m.  Around 4 I realized life was futile, or sleep, anyway, and decided to make my tomato sauce from all the heirloom tomatoes fresh from that days farmer's market.  Around 4:30, it occurred to me the last of the Plonk Part Deux would be great in it. So I came down to get it.  Onion, garlic, ginger, curry...around 6 a.m. the sauce was done and cooled and I decided to go to bed.  Nice night. 


 
But here's the astonishing end of summer foodie thing.  I tried to find the recipe, it was posted on LATimes twitter, or NYTimes twitter or neither of those...I couldn't find it... but   it     is     k i l l e r.  Cucumber salsa.  Cucumbers, red onion, 1 jalapeno with seeds, fresh cilantro and mint, lime and olive oil and salt.  The first time I had it with fish tacos and OMG.  Second time, this batch, I threw in a pomegranate, too.  Black beans, sour cream, and this on top...Holy Mother of OMG.  Both times, The only thing missing was a really appropriate wine pairing. 

 




Yes, it's been awhile, but we've now resolved that.






PS - If you don't have a food processor, you might want to make the salsa on your day off.  Lots and lots of  chopping

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Summer whites.

I confess, I'm not a huge fan of white wine.  No idea why, it tastes good, it pairs well with the food I eat and it's a pleasant summer quaff.  Wait ... what was I thinking, I DO like white wine! Here are four that went down this summer. 
1.  2009 Kuentz-Bas Alsace. I think I blogged about this one already.  It was good.

2. 2011 Villa Angarano "Angarano Bianco" Vespailo Breganze.  (Really, are all those words necessary?)  Let's see, I went to Topline and asked for something that went well with hummus - you may still be having nightmares about the late great hummus search - and they gave me this. 


As a matter of fact, I had it with the above - sauteed arugula, fried porkchop covered in hummus and a side of japanese and lemon cucumbers with lemon, dill, mustard, olive oil.  this was all just way too tasty.  The wine was: nice.

3. 2010 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Vineyard Chardonnay. A most generous gift to the cause, all I hear about California chardonnays are how buttery and oaky they are.  This was tight and minerally. Nice.

4. 2013 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling.  Australian and dry, this was recommended to me by a customer.  It is a reasonable grab at K&L. It was my first dry Riesling, and I really liked it.

Maybe I am not a fan of whites because by nature troglodytes prefer the culture of being warmed than the culture of being refreshed.  Winter is coming?  Not this week.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's new in Armenia? WINE.

(Two things I know nothing about, wine and Armenia.  This should go well.)

It all started with this article in Glendale News Press,  July 24, 2014, written by Brittany Levine, sadly no longer with the paper, don't panic, still on earth, just no longer with the Press.  In the article, Ms. Levine writes about Varuzhan Mouradian, who, after 20 years living in Los Angeles, has returned to Armenia to make wine. Though it seems the subject of wine making and Armenia occasionally cycles 'round, what made this article stick was, well, timing.  For instance, Mr. Mouradian references the country's indigenous grapes, Areni, Haghtanak, Karmrahyut, Kakhet, and unusual grapes are a bit of a trend right now.  New World Wines are in, too: South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand. The timing for Armenia is RIPE.  THEN, about a month later, M. came in and announced he was asked to go to Armenia to give a lecture on modern wine things.  That clenched it: Armenia is about to HAPPEN.

This is a panoramic shot of the cave Areni-1. (click on to enlarge)  I'm not sure the rent on that little duplex in the front, or the nearest Starbucks, but you have a CAVE in your backyard, one almost as nice as THE Cave.  Also, it is the very cave in which the world's oldest-know winery was discovered not but a few years ago.  It turns out Armenians were making wine in 4,000 BC. You'd think they'd be pretty good at it by now, but alas, like many ubiquitous supermarket wines, the current offerings most available, most recognized, are ... lacking. 

That's all about to change.  

In the south of Armenia, the Areni-1 cave complex lies along the Arpa River just outside Areni Village.  If you google-map this cave it's, like, nowhere. The Caucasus Mountains look like endless dry dust interspersed with moments of lushness.  Areni is in the most sparsely populated province in the country and one of four regions of wine making in Armenia, though I'm only finding specifically referenced Ararat and Vayots Dzor.  It is Ararat that is believed to be the resting place of Noah's Ark, and Noah himself that planted the first vines.  Like he got off the boat and planted vines. Tough trip meets intact priorities. Though Ararat is now technically in Turkey, it is spiritually forever Armenian. 

In the village there is the Areni Wine Factory, but the crest above the cave winds a long road to a lone-standing Monastery, Noravank. (click on images to enlarge)




Seriously, check out this monastery. Very small distinction between a troglodyte and a monk, mostly one of light. I think I can handle this.

That picture is lifted from the website for Zorah Wines, one of the wines already making its impression.  From their website, "Zorah’s carefully selected indigenous vines, which derive from the abandoned vineyards of a nearby 13th century monastic complex and have remained pure and unchanged for hundreds of years, are grown on original ungrafted root."

Zorik Gharibian returned to Armenia from Italy to pursue wine.  His winemaker is Alberto Antonini, among the top 5 of Forbes' list of the world's best winemakers. The company's agronomist, Stefano Bartolomei, is also Italian.  

In answer to "What's missing from Armenian Winemakers," Gharibian responds, ""Unfortunately, [people] in Armenia don't understand what a treasure they have. Many world-famous winemaking countries such as, for example, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina, don't have indigenous varieties, while Armenia has hundreds of indigenous varieties, which many are not interested in. This is lamentable. The second woeful fact is that we have a 6,000-year-old [winemaking] history and we don't pay attention to this fact, while in Europe they preserve their 500–600-year-old [winemaking] history to such an extent."

"I'm now speaking about my land. Armenia has altitudes — this land, this water, history, indigenous varieties… we have all the links [to the chain] to develop winemaking, but what we're missing is self-consciousness," he says, looking toward the clay amphorae laid out in the first floor of the factory."  Gharibian ages his wine in traditional clay amphorae, not too dissimilar from what was found in the caves.  When it became too difficult to source out, they opened their own factory. 
 


In 2012, Ellen McCoy posted on Bloomberg.com her Top 10 Wines.  Along with a 2009 Romanee-Conti that goes for $14,000 - $18,000 was the $45 2011 Zora Karasi Areni Noir.  Wow! Had that happened to me, I think I'd have produced a few clay pots on the spot. 






The 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards awarded 7 medals to Armenian wines, three of them silver.  If you are still unconvinced Armenia is the next hot wine region, peruse this nearly 80-page report from 2012.  It was embedded in Ms. Levine's News Press article, and it's actually a fascinating read of a possibility, a reality, and the challenges between. Armenia has the history, the grapes, the climate, the terroir, and the buzz - all the necessary components of notable wine - except, for now, the wine.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beer week is coming. See beer art!

In advance of Los Angeles Beer Week, September 20 - 28,  the gallery La Luz de Jesus opened last night its second annual beer coaster show. 

LA Times: "...we kept the rules simple: We told them to do whatever they wanted [as long as] each coaster must be a solitary work (though it’s fine if several pieces work together contextually), and they must be priced $250 or less.”

Typical to La Luz de Jesus, it's a great bit of fun to peruse. It runs to September 28. (click on images to enlarge)






Friday, September 5, 2014

Wine versus Wine.

(This started out as part of another post, but the other post is evolving into another idea, so now this is  a mere non-sequitur.   Apparently I think it's too genius to merely delete.)

This is an ad for Barefoot Refresh, one wine in the Ernest and Julio Gallo line up.  E and J Gallo is the number one selling wine brand in the country.  The Barefoot Refresh slogan, "Say hello to wine on the rocks," is maybe ironic? I doubt it.





It's certainly not this stuff, which many consider the world's best wine. (Small aside, more of curiosity  than proof of quality: in 2013, 3 bottles of the 1990 vintage were sold for $72,000.)

In testament to the limits of language, or maybe a mere misunderstanding of terms, (only in the most  Wittgensteinian ways), both these products are  acceptable definitions of the word, "wine."

Just like both these paintings are called, "art."

Awesome.

Liking bad wine and bad art doesn't make it good wine and good art, it means you like bad wine and bad art. For instance, I like this.   And most of what George W. paints.  But I'm not delusional about it.

Is all. Glad we had this chat.