Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010



last week, the bf and i decided to take an impromptu trip to virginia wine country. going into it, we both held tainted views of va wine as being overly sweet and, well, just not very good. would there be anything to change our minds?

disclaimer: no matter how much i throw around words like "finish" and "overtones," i am not a sommelier. (see: mcsweeny's "terms used by the sommelier that indicate you should order a salad") i am a wine-snob wannabe who has convinced herself that i can indeed tell the difference between a $10 and $50 bottle, though more realistically i can probably delineate between a box of franzia and, well, anything else. but the matter is, i like wine for more than just its alcohol content. and wine tasting is more than an excuse for free cheese, crackers, and booze.

low key and with over 40 varieties, horton was a good place to refresh our memories on all the types of wines that are out there. though a lot of their efforts seem to be focused on fruit and dessert wines (not my personal faves), the dionysus portuguese red was great. they also claim to be the only authentic makers of port in the state. it seems that there is some debate on the issue of what can be labelled "port" (similar to the case of champagne); in the EU, only ports from portugual may be called such, but in the US this is not so. still, it seems that some winemakers in the US choose not to call their port-like products such and choose different terms out of respect for the real deal...i did try their signature XOCO chocolate dessert wine, after having gagged seeing the very same thing in the grocery store a few weeks ago. it tasted like, you guessed it, sweet wine with chocolate syrup in it. although, the scent alone was quite nice.

one of the wine meccas of virginia, barboursville is known for its vineyards, italian vintner, and one of the best restaurants in the region. walking into the barboursville winery is how i imagine many of the napa and sonoma valley sights to be like. but it's not all for show; the wine was hand-down the best of the day. i prefer red, but their pinot grigio was nice and the signature "octagon" blend (named for the central feature of the barboursville ruins house achitecture) was my favorite. bf and i decided that dinner at palladio would have to wait for a major life event, seeing as you need reservations weeks out and about a hundred/person to lay down for 5 courses and wine pairings.

definitely a change of pace after barboursville, burnley is small and cozy. it has a mom and pop feel and is without the pomp of barboursville. though the wines weren't outstanding, we had a nice conversation with the owner and i bought a bottle nevertheless. only later would i regret this decision - i bought a different vintage of the wine i liked the best, but upon opening it, i found it vinegary and undrinkable. guess that's what i get for not buying what i tried.

my list isn't quite as extensive as the people behind virginia wine time, my vine spot, or virginia wine dogs, so if you're planning on making any vineyard visits, definitely take a look at their reviews.
virginia winemaking is different from what i expected to be. one can find a bottle that's certainly as good as many california wines and those from farther abroad, while contributing to local, more sustainable purchasing. not to mention that the state's dry dry summer was bad news to most farmers, but great news to viticulturalists. draught = smaller, more flavorful grapes, so many of the people we talked to said that 2010 will be a good year for virginia wine.

other va wine resources:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

shackleton and cutting off your own arm

it happens to most bloggers, the dreaded break. life happens and somehow writing and the blog get put on the back burner. i think mine ended up in the garbage disposal. here's the part where i apologize for my lack of posts and list various excuses as to why i've been too busy to write.


on to the post...
"ordinary people doing extraordinary things" is how tales of survival are often described, even though i'd beg to say that there is a divide in the genre; there are stories of people who found themselves accidentally in terrifying circumstances (see: shipwrecks and plane crashes) vs. those people who more or less invite the adventure upon themselves, though they may not know to what extent their adventure will take them (see: explorers, mountain climbers).

in any case, however, it seems that under dire circumstances, people are able to do things they thought were impossible. many of these stories shouldn't be called "survival" stories, as that was unfortunately not the outcome for all involved.

some of my favorites (true stories):
  • alive (piers paul morgan) - the uruguayan rugby team's plane crashes in the andes
  • into thin air (jon krakauer) -a tragic ascent of mt. everest
  • into the wild (jon krakauer) - chris mccandless goes off the grid and into the alaskan frontier (emile hirsch did a fantastic job in the film version)
  • grizzly man - less survival, more strange man vs. nature. timothy treadwell gets a little close to his passion - grizzly bears. the film is great, although some (me) may find that director werner herzog tried too hard to let you know that he is god's gift to the documentary film world

more recently:
  • 127 hours - movie version of aron ralston's story of being trapped in a canyon in utah, where he amputated his own arm in order to escape. was a little underwhelmed by danny boyle's version (probably because i really like his other films), but the story itself is pretty epic.
  • the endurance (caroline alexander) - british explorer ernest shackleton plans to be the first to cross antarctica on foot; instead the team's ship becomes trapped in ice floes only to sink, leaving them stranded. the book has beautiful black and white photos of the entire saga. there is a made for tv movie version starring kenneth branagh that might be worth watching, haven't seen it yet.
future endeavors:
  • the long walk (slavomir rawicz) - story of soldiers' escape from a russian gulag in 1939 and their trek all the way to british india
  • skeletons on the zahara (dean king) - 1815 shipwreck and landfall on the edge of the sahara desert
  • adrift (steve callahan) - story of the only person to have survived over a month alone in a life raft
  • we die alone (david howarth) - espionage and escape above the arctic circle as a norweigan soldier attempts to escape nazi capture
  • rescue dawn - i'll give herzog another chance with his film remake of a previous documentary, little deiter needs to fly. a downed pilot's makes his way to safety across and laos and vietnam during the vietnam war.
in researching popular survival books and movies, i came across this man several times: alexander selkirk, who some say is the real-life inspiration for robinson crusoe. in 1704, selkirk was marooned on an island off the coast of chile for over four years. more selkirk details here and recent discoveries on his campsite here.
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and in case you wanted some of those excuses as to why i haven't written in the past few months...life updates:
  • have been all moved in to the new apt. for a few months now. no, it doesn't look like a swedish cottage, nor does it even look like an ikea catalog. no, i never had the housewarming party i hoped to hold. no, i still haven't found correctly-sized curtains for the bedroom. but it's home and it's cozy and the radiators are working quite well on this wintry afternoon.
  • grad school semester 1 is officially over. and yes, i still want to be a social worker.
  • have started training for the shamrock marathon in march. hello 12 miles at 8am.