Sunday, August 10, 2014

All things wine

Let’s see, last…September (so wow, a year ago…can you believe how fast the time goes?) Danielle and I took an epic trip to Napa, including a stop by Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, where I am a member of their wine club. If you’re not already familiar, Chateau Montelena has an awesome back story. Basically, back in 1976, they were invited to participate in a blind taste test in France that put French wines up against California ones, which at the time did not have much international acclaim. This event became known as the Judgment of Paris. The French wines were expected to win, hands down, and to everyone’s surprise, a California wine won in both the red and the white category – and for the white, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay that won. This event helped put Napa Valley wines on the map and is a historical moment in wine history. There’s a lot more to the story, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Before our last fall, Netflix had recommended a movie called Bottle Shock and I watched it one afternoon, not expecting too much. Well, I loved it – it tells the (fictionalized) version of the Judgment of Paris and the role Chateau Montelena played. Even if there was creative leeway given, the story is great, the soundtrack is great, the cast is awesome, and the whole film is filled with beautiful scenes of Napa. Prior to seeing the movie, I hadn't even heard of Chateau Montelena (this was clearly before I became the wine snob I am today). My dad was going to be visiting and we were going to head up to Napa for some wine tastings, so I had him watch the movie (he loved it too) and we made sure to hit up Chateau Montelena during our tour of Napa. During that trip, I became a club member at Chateau Montelena…and dad did as well.

Danielle’s visit came shortly after dad’s. I learned that as a club member, I had the opportunity to do a special Cellarmaster tasting at the Chateau, so I signed us up. Honestly, it was one of the best experiences I have had in Napa, and that’s saying something, as they've all been pretty epic. It was a seated tasting with cheese pairings, plus we got to go out into the vineyards and taste some grapes right off the vine, all in an idyllic setting. That trip also marked my introduction to Midnight Moon cheese by Cypress Grove, a truly life changing event (best. cheese. ever).  Anyway, while I was there I picked up an autographed copy of Judgment of Paris by George Taber, the journalist who covered the original event. The book is a more thorough look at the events leading up to and including the tasting, and the lasting impact it had on wine globally.

So fast forward almost a year, to earlier this month. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Napa, I finally picked up the book to read. I guess I thought that despite the interesting subject, it might be a bit dry (ha...a wine pun...a bit dry) – wrong again. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot about the history of wine, wine making, and the global wine market. And that finally brings us to the point of today’s blog post. Each chapter heading includes a quote about wine, so I thought it would be fun to pull together some of my favorites – from the book and elsewhere.

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food. ― W.C. Fields

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know. ― John Keats

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans. ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast 

his lips drink water
but his heart drinks wine ― E.E. Cummings

Beer is made by men, wine by God. ― Martin Luther

Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. - Pope John XXIII

Wine is bottled poetry. - Robert Louis Stevenson

The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars. ― Benjamin Franklin