Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2012 La Crema Sonoma Coast pinot noir, 2011 Hob Nob -- and other notes

This is many customers' go-to, special-occasion-but-still-below-$30 pinot noir. From the good people at Gallo. Retail, around $18 on sale.

It struck me recently how uniformly good pinot noirs are, at practically any price point, despite the gag in the movie Sideways about the grape's delicacy, finickiness, and difficulty of cultivation, and the implication that therefore good pinot noirs are so rare. Not at all. Perhaps things have improved in the vineyard since the novel was written and the movie made, or perhaps author and film overstated the case. Of course it is still up to you to decide whether you like your pinots done in a California style, all fruit and chummy red lusciousness, or whether you like a thin, horsey, barnyard funk running through them and right up your nose, à la New Zealand's Oyster Bay (for example). My customer base shies away from the "earthy" and interesting weirdness of Oyster Bay. And I mention Sideways because I recently had auricular proof that that movie did have real power in the industry: a fine winemaker attested to me, not two weeks ago, that his merlot business is only now beginning to recover from the character Miles' famed refusal to "drink any f ------  merlot!"

Now, for notes on other things. Below, these are pluots. 

And, below again, this is the spectacular sunset we saw the night we returned from the movies. We went to see Maleficent. Did you agree it was nihilist? I didn't. The moviemakers may have wanted us to believe that the "hero was also a villain" -- ergo, we mustn't judge anybody -- but the movie itself proves otherwise: Maleficent regretted her action, sought redemption, and ended fighting true, if pasteboard, evil. That makes her heroic. Open-minded, terribly daring Western artistes are still more steeped in their own civilization than they know. As for true love's kiss being metamorphosed, curdled, into mother's love's kiss, well yes. Growing up and going out into the world to seek union with the Other is a keystone of Western maturity. Perhaps Angelina Jolie shouldn't have made a film which shows her philosophical ignorance in thrusting that aside. Still, mother's love is a love. On the whole I found the thing harmless if a bit dull. Then again, full disclosure: I have always been quite slow to pick up on metaphors. I was the kid in sophomore year high school American Lit. who didn't find any meaning in the billboard of the giant eyes in The Great Gatsby. When I was told about it, I lost all interest in Gatsby and in most novels. Watching Maleficent, I was the middle-aged mom who didn't understand that Angelina Jolie had had her wings cut off. ("Why is she screaming?" Upon which query, young adult children do face palm and eye roll.) It certainly did not occur to me that this was a metaphor for girls in general "having their wings clipped." If spotting subverted metaphors is the key to seeing nihilsm in today's Disney oeuvres, I'm not your man.

 On that same night we saw a rainbow, unusually high in the eastern sky, after very little rain.

 It's June. Time not only for light, slightly barnyard-y pinot noirs, but for solstices, Asiatic lilies,

wallflowers (orange, scented), and candytuft (purple).

Humid days and cool nights have given us a run of extraordinary sunsets. They look like the paintings in books of fairy tales.

And, would you believe it, we have discovered something new, the linden tree. Walking to the grocery store the other day, along a route I used to traipse with three small children in tow, in a very quiet secluded neighborhood dark with cool shadow, I smelled the most delicious, soft orange-like scent. In a few steps I came under the shade of a huge, darkly foliaged tree, frothed all over with the spent remains of little tufted yellow blossoms. Leaves and branches were interspersed as well with neat pale green pairs of what looked like drooping insect wings, or a maple tree's "helicopters." I consulted the internet and then my tree book, and found what I had found and smelled. It was a linden tree, also called "lime" though having no relation to the citrus fruit and tree. (It seems that once upon a time the words lind, line, and lime all sounded alike in medieval languages.) Lind had to do with ideas of flexibility or litheness, descriptive of the tree's soft, easily worked wood. Wikipedia tells us linden wood has been used for all kinds of things, from Viking shields to medieval German altarpieces to marionettes to modern day bass guitars. The tree is also called basswood. The flowers make herbal teas in themselves, and help bees make a prized honey.

Near Midsummer Day it seems only appropriate to open A Midsummer Night's Dream, and look for apposite lines. "Flower of this purple dye," the fairy king Oberon begins the chant of a spell. June also is the season of cherries, as Shakespeare knew. Helena complains: 
We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key'
....                      So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
Buy yet an union in partition --
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem; 
People often throw cherry about as a descriptor when talking of pinot noirs, so now you may have another one. This is Hob Nob, so very good; full indeed of cherries and other California fruit, it also has the tiniest streak of horsiness -- sufficient at least to banish it to the closeout rack of a rival grocery store. Retail, therefore, $8.99. Worth more.

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