The Friday Fermentable: The Essence of Wine Appreciation by Seth Gross and Craig Heffley

Okay, so kill me - I'm posting The Friday Fermentable on Saturday morning. I just couldn't get it together yesterday and the US Thanksgiving holiday has my timing all screwed up.

i-80df3efb0c8dbe3b4d3d6e8fc234df4b-seth and craig.jpgI noted earlier this week that the proprietors of our community treasure, Wine Authorities, were to be interviewed on the local NPR affiliate, WUNC-FM, in (guess where?) Chapel Hill, NC, USA. Frank Stasio, a remarkable gentleman in his own right, spoke with Craig Heffley and Seth Gross on his noontime show, The State of Things. The interview was preempted Monday by the economy-related cabinet appointments announced by President-Elect Obama, but the boys appeared successfully on Tuesday's program (show archive here).

I promote these Wine Authorities purveyors often as examples of the philosophy, expertise, and objectivity that our readers should seek among their own local wine merchants (although USians may care to order directly from them: Seth and Craig will FedEx their wines to about 43 US states, a reasonable consideration for some offerings that are imported into the US only by them). The Wine Authorities are also longstanding supporters of the local scientific blogosphere and, more broadly, other like-minded independent businesses and the technology-based community.

I also bring these gentlemen to your attention as we are in secret negotiations with them to present some aspect of their wares and expertise to the 200+ of you who will be participating in the ScienceOnline'09 unconference in January.

Even if you're not in North Carolina, I encourage you to listen to their interview because of the unusual and refreshing attitude they bring to selling and educating about wine in their lives as combination neighborhood bar/butchershop/community gathering place. Here are the high points for me:

As Craig was quoted in the GrapeVine Trail article:

"Women shoppers have been largely ignored by most wine retailers and they are the ones who are buying three out of four bottles of wine in this country," says Heffley, formerly of the Fowler's Gourmet Wine Department. "With Wine Authorities, our goal is to create a female-friendly environment without dissociating any male customers." The atmosphere is comfortable with couches and a tasting bar, a children's play area, and mobile wine displays to accommodate a full-sized wine education facility for their frequent evening wine education classes.

Well, that's about all I can think of for now - I hope you'll consider joining us on Thursday night (4 December at 7:18 pm EST, 0018 GMT) for a live web winetasting with the WA boys (PDF here). They've be broadcasting live from the living room and tasting:

Hillinger Welschriesling from Austria
Tolosa, Pinot Noir from California
Givaudan, Cotes du Rhone "Cuvee Lea"

The weblink is:

More like this

In the Isis house not only does Dr. Isis buy 3/4 bottles, but she also probably drinks 3/4 bottles.

So, here's what Mama needs of you, Pharmboy. I need a good, bath-taking, book-reading Shiraz for the next Friday Fermentable.

I'm counting on you, Abel.

Dear Isis, hmmmm, my recommendation(s) really depend on how much you're looking to spend. I last wrote here about Shiraz when I was totally rocked by Nugan Estate Shiraz, then even more blown away when I learned you could have it for around twelve bucks (USD).

I haven't yet had it but I am waiting to try the 2007 Two Hands McLaren Vale Angels Share Shiraz - I've seen it around $35. I think many of you know that 'angels' share" refers to the wine that evaporates through the xylem during barrel-aging, intensifying the flavor.

If you want to go nuts, or if someone wants to be very generous to you, the Ben Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz (~$70). It is the best red I have tasted in the last two years and, yes, it was a gift. You will be interested to know from his website that, "As the King of all Gods, Amon-Ra is considered the most powerful figure in Egyptian mythology. The temple of Amon-Ra is recorded as the birthplace of commercial winemaking, having the first ever large scale vineyard grown specifically to make wine for the citizens of the temple."

Abel, your Friday Fermentable posts are the only ones on your blog that I typically don't read. Had I read these Fermentables, I probably would not have had to learn a very hard lesson about Pinot Noir this weekend. I had a nice bottle of French pinot that some friends had given me several years ago, and I ignorantly believed that all red wines should be saved so that they could age or mellow or whatever. Wrong, of course.

So you know where this tale of wine woe and stupidity is going, of course ... I had some grad school friends visiting over the holidays, and I thought this aged and mellowed Pinot Noir would be the ideal accompaniment for a delightful venison sausage and fontina/parmesan cheese pizza that we had made. Of course, the pinot was vinegar. Sad, indeed, but at least we made an excellent beef bourguignon with it. Lesson learned.

Whaaaat??? One of my favorite readers and commenters doesn't read every single one of my posts and hang on my every word. Hurt does not even begin to describe it.

Well, of course, I don't write every Friday Fermentable so I'll leave my friend Erleichda to take up this issue with you.

Frankly, I doubt that you would've gotten good pinot noir aging advice from reading here. I'm not very good about putting wines down and if I do, I usually contact one of my more knowledgeable colleagues for recs on specific wines - for example, I was gifted a bottle of 1990 Ch. Montrose and was going to open it for New Year's 2003. I called the Bordeaux expert at K&L Wines in San Francisco (a great place for rare old wines as milestone gifts for friends) and they told me not to even dare opening it until 2010.

The pinot vinegar situation was undoubtedly exacerbated by the fact that my "wine cellar" consists of a small Ikea wine box, situated at the end of one of my kitchen countertops. However, I now know that the "Beef Braised in Red Wine" recipe on Epicurious is a great way to use a suboptimal bottle of red wine. I also know to buy pinot noir from Oregon (good + affordable), and to drink it relatively soon after purchase.

A friend whom I see once a year at study section has become very knowledgeable about affordable and not-so-affordable wines, but he has dedicated a good deal of time and intellectual effort toward achieving that status. Reading wine magazines and books, going to tasting events, visiting wineries ... and it seems to be a hobby that appeals to many scientists.

Hmmm...gotta check out that recipe for Beef Braised in Red Wine.

We're lucky to have a basement in a very hot and sticky part of the country. Our wine closet is where two corners of the stone foundation meet - while the temp does vary, it stays relatively constant within a given season. I'm told that it's the abrupt and cycling changes that matter. You may also have very well had a bad bottle from the start that had a wee whiff of Acetobacter.

But yes, bad wine can make great vinegar. If we can ultimately catch up in meatspace, and keep me posted when you are on study section, I promise you a fine glass of wine (or three!).

How fitting that your favorite shiraz to recommend to Isis would be Amon-Ra. I have been to several of his temples and if the shiraz is as lovely I am sure I will be thrilled...

2007 Two Hands McLaren Vale Angels Share Shiraz is absolutely divine. It's pretty high on alcohol, but very full bodied. Had a couple of bottles over Christmas. Not a wine for drinking with food though, better that it be enjoyed on its own. It would overpower most food except perhaps steak.