Utahwinelover's Blog

Genuine and sometimes irreverent musings about wine I drink. Or wish I could.

When in Paris…. June 10, 2014

Filed under: French wines,Wine Musings — utahwinelover @ 10:19 pm
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On this warm high west evening, I am sipping a BIG red wine produced in Napa Valley and wondering why I missed this style of wine so much given the fact that, two weeks ago at this time I was landing on the tarmac of Charles-De-Gaulle aéroport to pursue fine food, wine, art, and ambience (not necessarily in that order). With my visit, I should now be inured to the in-your-face style of big American reds, right?

This was my first visit to Paris, France. But my Hollywood (or perhaps foreign cinéma) expectations were shattered in the City of Light. I was expecting wine finesse. But apparently that resides in the wine countries of France, not in the big city (or maybe in those Parisian restaurants I could not afford). It may also very well be that I am simply a clueless Américaine tourist.

Not that I couldn’t fine wine EVERYWHERE. Corner bistros with their ubiquitous cane chairs and teeny tables lining the sidewalk. Everyone smokes, drinks wine, and faces the street, not one another. But good wine? Non. Non. Non. Yet all of it was French. So odd. Wine satisfaction was elusive. Perhaps I am not skilled in the art of true wine connoisseurship. That declaration would not be a stretch. But the most I’ve been satisfied with wine that I’ve imbibed during and since my jaunt to Paris is now. At home. With a California red. Well, except for that glass of Northern Rhône wine I sipped on one of those chairs facing Rue Lepic in the Montmartre district — that was my last day there. Perhaps I was just getting the hang of things as my time in Paris came to a close. (Oh, of course there was the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc vin I just drank … At home.)

Aaaand so, I plan (at least in principle) my next trip to France with an understanding that wine is ubiquitous in France but unforgettable wine experiences are more likely to occur in the wine regions of France, not the City of Paris. Another reason to visit, non?


Eye level with the starry sky February 10, 2013

Filed under: Life,Random musings — utahwinelover @ 9:12 am

Modern Travel. Airports. Airplanes. Delays. Bad food. Expensive food. Missed connection. A flight delay so long that I actually had time to eat dinner and drink a glass of Layer Cake Shiraz (that was top of the line for the airport restaurant wine list). A bit of a comfort, but I was still in the Dallas-Forth Worth airport. So only a bit….

I knew I would arrive at my doorstep around midnight. I was so tired that tears were about to make my mascara run. I boarded the dimly lit airplane for my final leg of the trip, sat in a window seat, and stared out at the rain-shimmering tarmac. The plane’s taxi from the gate to the runway lasted longer than the car ride home would last. Or so it seemed.

Finally, we left the ground.

I stared out the dark window at nothing, because that’s all I wanted to see. But then I saw something extraordinary. Amidst the routine, bland experience of a passenger flying on a commercial jetliner, I became level with the starry sky.

We rose above the thick cloud cover, which, illuminated from below by city lights, glowed faintly like a shrouded dimly-lit display cabinet in a dark restaurant. A ribbon of darkness at eye level, glowing grey cotton below. Surreal. Then I saw some pinpoints of light. Other airplanes, I thought. But the pinpoints became more numerous.

I could see Orion’s Belt.

Here I was, soaring through the night sky looking at the stars as if I were Superman or a child in a storybook flying to the moon or climbing a ladder to the diamond-infested sky like Mary Poppins did in the original book series.

I was distracted from my self-indulgent thoughts by the sight. I wished I could fly unencumbered by fuselage and the light pollution from within. So I made an impossible promise to myself: never take anything for granted in this tremendously complicated world.

” Never” is a ridiculous word, but I will give it a go.



Word Gift November 22, 2012

Filed under: Life,Poetry — utahwinelover @ 2:03 pm

This morning, in a moment of repose, I opened up a slim paperback book of Billy Collins’s poetry to a random page. It was lying on my bed, half covered by pillows.  I received this in return, and thought I’d share it with you. (No wine involved, although it does use the word “grape.”)


Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting by the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating pressure
of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

~ Billy Collins


The value of forgetting November 16, 2012

Filed under: Life,Music,Reds,Wine Musings,Wine Tasting,Zinfandel — utahwinelover @ 12:26 am

Facts rattling around inside my head need stillness to grow into something useful. When I can’t run anymore, I’m forced to stop.  Oddly, only then does that fleeting “knowledge” become part of me.

My piano professor once told me, “You have to learn all the notes, and then forget them.”  She was talking about a particularly difficult passage (as in, many many little black notes in small print filling one beat of music) in what I believe was a work of Mendelssohn.  (I practiced that passage, oh, I don’t know, a thousand times?)  She was right. But I did not understand what she meant until I actually forgot.  I turned away from that piece of music out of frustration. I didn’t play it for weeks.  Then, one day, I sat down and played the piece with fluidity like I’d never known. That rush, that moment of pure freedom, pure joy, that clarity, came from no source I can pinpoint.

I’ve discovered that feeling with wine.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I would say, “Don’t ever ask me to do a blind tasting and make any sense of it.” But there’s always that one percent chance, right?  One day, having lunch by myself while anxiously reading papers from work, an acquaintance at the restaurant quietly offered me a glass of wine.  Who was I to say no? I don’t normally (like, really, ever) drink anything alcoholic during the work day (it’s not good for my productivity — although, given the nature of this post, perhaps I should rethink that).  But it was a kind offer. I took it.  A red wine.  I knew nothing about it.  My only clues were that it was red and that it was wine.  That narrows it down a bit, eh? Upon the first taste, I thought “zinfandel.”  I was right. Now, for all you winos out there, this is nothing spectacular, but for me, it was a surprise. I correctly, blindly, identified the variety of grape.   But being able to identify it as a zinfandel was something I never truly learned during my wine tasting class.  Too much information, too much wine (if that’s possible), too many aromas and flavors. (Don’t get me wrong. I loved the class. I just felt overwhelmed.  And I have probably forgotten more than I learned. Not my teacher’s fault — my mind is like a sieve.)  Then I realized that I had (perhaps unwittingly) been learning about the nature of zinfandel simply by tasting so many different zinfandels, a “task” I undertook because, well, that was the wine I loved (craved?) at the moment. (Actually, my love of zinfandels has not diminished.)  I learn more about a wine by experiencing it, over time.  At that moment, I had put my wine class learnin’ away and simply tasted while I was doing something else of a much more pedantic nature.  I forgot, and then I knew. What silly joy.



Shatter. A wine and a viticulture term. September 27, 2012

Filed under: California wines,French wines,Reds,Wine labels — utahwinelover @ 10:08 pm

Grenache. 100%. From vineyards in the Roussillon region of France. Made by, uh, California wine makers? Yes. Dave Phinney and Joel Gott have ventured into the vineyards of France to create “Shatter.” Joel Gott is a well-known wine maker with his own line of wines. And Dave Phinney is well known for his iconoclastic wines from Orin Swift, such as The Prisoner, Saldo, and Palermo. I love all of them. So when I found “Shatter” (the wine label is simply a photo of shattered pale green glass, in the geometric shapes characteristic of a broken tempered glass window), I had to buy it. It’s not available in Utah (as far as I know), so I had to go to Knoxville to try it (long story, not worth relating here). The term “shatter” also refers to a viticulture phenomenon particularly present in young Grenache would-be-grapes, where, under certain circumstances, they shrivel up and die, thereby “shattering” off the vine. Apparently the french version of the word is “coulure,” but that doesn’t sound as cool as “shatter.”

I poured this garnet-colored wine into a Riedel glass. Why not be fancy, right? I took in the aroma (the “nose”) and smiled, giddiness filling me up. I just sniffed the wine in the glass for awhile. No one saw me. So don’t tell anyone that I’m a complete nerd. Finally, I tasted it. Plum, black cherry, spice, vanilla. Very nicely balanced (that means it’s not too sweet and not too acidic), and full bodied without knocking you over. In short, I loved it.

Grenache is one of the noble grapes of southern France, particularly in the Côtes du Rhone area. Apparently wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape are predominantly Grenache. No wonder I liked Shatter. If you can find it, drink it.


Castello is to an Italian castle as Chateaux is to a French estate? September 16, 2012

Filed under: Italian wines,Reds,Wine Tasting — utahwinelover @ 9:08 pm
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I wandered the aisle at the wine store looking for an Italian wine. I hadn’t a clue, but one jumped out at me. Maybe it was the bottle engraved with the winery’s crest. Or the fact that it was a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sangiovese, and syrah. Or maybe I was just bored with what I had been drinking and needed to find a new wine. This one seemed like a good stab in the dark. Maybe I’d hit flesh.

I’m now drinking Cum Laude (“with honors” for you Latin college types) 2008 “rosso” (that means “red” in Italian) from Castello Banfi in Montalcino, a wine region within the Tuscany region where “super tuscans” (no relation to Superman) are created. Apparently. This region is known for its Brunello wine, which is the same thing as saying Sangiovese wine (grape clones, a matter I know nothing of, but hey, there is such a thing, and it’s kinda cool in an unknowing sort of way — I guess that means it sounds good. What do I know?). One and the same varietal. Gotta love wine nomenclature. The French have nothing on the Italians and the Spaniards. But I digress.

This, however, is not a Brunello wine, which must have 100% sangiovese in it. This is a blend. A nice one. Nothing to write home about (but hey, I’ll write a blog post). I thought about mentioning this wine on “Tweet A Wine” (my latest silly focus). I get “badges” whenever I follow their tweet format and pretend to know what I’m doing when I review the wine I have selected for imbibing that particular evening. But all I can say is, “Um, yeah. It’s good.” It’s not my favorite. BUT I enjoyed it and, as I did my internet research [yes, I’m thorough….], I learned about a small wine region of Italy and refreshed my memory (kind of) about what I learned in my wine class about Italian wines. Here’s a link to tasting notes for this wine. And the village has an intriguing history. http://www.castellobanfi.com/wines/index.php?wine=3

Ciao bella.


To blog or not to blog? The inanity ensues. May 26, 2012

Filed under: Inanity,Random musings,Rosé,Scotch — utahwinelover @ 12:42 am

Pistachios and single malt scotch.  Yes, I call myself utahwinelover. It’s accurate. I live in Utah. I love wine. But I also love scotch. And I love pistachios because (a) they are green; (b) they taste good; and (c) they make you work for them.

More importantly, I sit here on a “rainy” (i.e., smattering-sorry-excuse-for-rain) breezy Salt Lake City spring night on my front porch fighting the urge to blog.  And losing. Modern-day philosophy: To Blog or Not To Blog? That is the question.

Truth is, my brain is going a thousand miles a minute (that’s fast. do the math). Getting the inane out of my brain may help me sleep. So apologies to the unsuspecting reader.

This is supposed to be a blog about wine. From the perspective of a Utah [gasp] resident. Yes, we drink wine here. Well, at least I and my closest of friends do. Good enough for me. But right now, I don’t have anything to say about wine. Well, at least anything I should articulate on a blog post. [Stacia, forgive me.] [That’s CheekyMuffy to the rest of you.]

Sometimes I think I’m funny. That is a bad trait to have. My son said he doesn’t think I’m funny. I told him he just doesn’t get my humor. Oh how I look forward to embarrassing him in his formative years. I think I will have no problem doing it. I’m probably doing it now.

Let’s see…. I tasted a dry rosé that purports to be a “vin de pays” but comes from Napa Valley and is produced by Frog’s Leap. The label is even designed to look like a french wine label. Sneaky. But, frankly, it tastes good. So maybe I’ll list the name of the wine in the future.  Right now, I just, well, don’t give a damn.

I’ll be back, hopefully more coherent and with a purpose. But I make no guarantees.

Good night all. And to all, a good night. [Ooh. Wrong season.]

P.S. How do the Scots say “cheers”? On Twitter, that would be followed by the hashtag #burningquestion.

I’m off to read Charles Dickens. He has a way with words, did you know?


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