Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wine Wednesday-Sommelier

Clearly I enjoy wine. Drinking. Discussing. Learning. This. Does NOT make me a wine expert, a Master of Wine nor a sommelier.
 About a week ago when the word sommelier came up in conversation, the party on the other end said "SOm-uh-WHAT?"

Sommelier is defined as:
                      a wine steward or a waiter in a restaurant in charge of wines.

This is a very narrow definition as a sommelier is responsible for the procurement of wines in restaurants or even large stores, wine storage, cellar rotation, and offering expert service and advice to the wine consumer.

To achieve the prestigious title of "Master Sommelier" takes years of grueling hard work, self study and a refinement of palette. Typically somewhere between 3 (if you are very lucky and very good) and 10 years. Much to the surprise of some, it is not about drinking multiple bottles of 2 Buck Chuck or even expensive wine every night. It IS equivalent to studying for and obtaining a PhD.

The very word, sommelier, previously conjured up images of a waiter (read:male) in tails, a towel over one arm and nose in the air. Giving more the impression of arrogance rather than sophistication or service.
photo courtesy of Madison Beer Review

I feel a strong need to dispel this myth.
Partly because I recently read "Demeanor of the Professional Sommelier" as defined by the Court of Master Sommeliers(as part of my own self study)

The first two bullet points struck such a nerve.
  • It is imperative for a sommelier to display a quietly confident but not arrogant attitude and to demonstrate superlative hospitality throughout beverage service.
  • It is important for sommeliers to put themselves in the role of a server; no job or task on the floor is beneath the role of a sommelier; he or she does whatever needs to be done in the moment to take care of the guest. 
There is nothing beneath you.
             Confident WITHOUT arrogance.
                             A role of a server (meaning to serve).
THIS isn't exactly the mental picture I had conjured up. How ZEN! How Yogic!

And partly because several months ago I had the distinct honor to meet Oklahoma's own
(and only) Master Sommelier. And she (Yes! SHE!) has utterly dispelled my myth.

According to the Court of Master Sommeliers website there are 186 Master Sommeliers worldwide.  
                                           186 on the entire planet!
In North America there are:
                              101 men and
                                                exactly 17 women.

Oklahoma has one, yes only one. Master Sommelier. And she is not only 1 of 186 but
                                            1 of ONLY 17 women.
                                           This thrills me to no end!

Image courtesy of Randa Warren website

I have had the great pleasure to attend a few classes with Randa Warren. Her wine knowledge, naturally, blows me away. Every time I attend a class though I walk away touched by her patience, kindness and overall demeanor. One that quietly states humility and service as well as a joie de vivre.

Will I ever become a Master Sommelier? A girl can dream, right?  It's a path I'm exploring. But I'm not sure I have the dedication and discipline to achieve something of this magnitude. Along the way though, I'll enjoy some wine, work on a humble attitude where nothing is beneath me, try to be helpful and of service to others and maybe, just maybe open up to life's lessons with less judgement. That's part of it, right?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 6th now = Waitaingi Day

Today is an anniversary of sorts. But not a good one. Not one to be celebrated. In fact, it's the 20th anniversary of a horrible event in my family.
I dread February 6th. Every. Year.

20 years ago, on this day.

3 days before my 21st birthday, when I should have been celebrating a rite of passage.

I was devastated and in mourning.

It was the day my grandpa died.

Murdered. Actually.

And every year, I walk around with a tightness in my chest, either on the verge of, or in tears and it's a personal hell. And it generally carries through to my birthday. (Which has been hard to really celebrate)
Until now.

Truly, the shift began last year, while in New Zealand during this time. We were going to celebrate my 40th birthday at the Marlborough Wine Festival on the 9th (Again. Thanks NZer's for throwing me a heck of a bash).
We were encouraged to go to the Waitaingi Day celebrations.

Held each year on 6th February, this holiday commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitaingi in 1840, the founding document of New Zealand.

As we made our way to a particular celebration in Akaroa on the South Island, That fear and panic began to once again grow. I tried to breathe through it. Tears filled my eyes. I did the best I could. But once we arrived I was taken with the people, the landscape, the celebrations. I did bring it up with my husband and we discussed. Mostly, he just he does. My mind was filled with this new (to me) and wonderful event.

A few days later we made our way to Blenheim for the wine festival. 
I had a GREAT birthday! The best one of my adult life.

I had been dreading this day. This BIG anniversary. But today there's been a shift. Nothing is going to change the fact that today is THAT day. The only thing that can change is how I process it and react to it. So I am recognizing and publicly acknowledging it. But no longer am I going to allow the violent actions of someone else ruin my day. Or my birthday.
Having pleasant memories of something else doesn't change things but it does help.

I'm remembering my grandpa with love, fondness and happy memories.

And in my heart I'm celebrating with my friends in NZ.

Happy Waitaingi Day!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

adios 2013, bon jour 2014

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 

At exactly this time last year, I was buried in grief. My family and I had lost someone we loved and adored. I had hoped that the way 2013 arrived would not set the tone for the rest of the year. Several months later we were shocked to learn we lost another amaZing person and friend. Again. Tragically, unexpectedly and much to soon. It's been a tough year. Throughout the year, I've had to watch as loved ones have hurt. Battling against things out of their control. From hard core addictions to aggressive cancers. It has been heartbreaking. Many, many hours and days have been spent in turmoil and tears. 

Does this mean 2013 has been a wretched year? No. It has been a lesson. Life happens. Death happens. Hurt and disappointment happen. It all goes hand in hand. Life doesn't always go as planned. But goodness happen too.

2013 was supposed to be the year of the Z. (Traveling to places with a Z in the name.)
As I mentioned, Life interfered. We didn't get to all of the places on the list, but I can't really complain.
Here's some of the highlights:

February found me in New Zealand where I spent a couple of weeks traversing the South Island. The best part was celebrating my 40th birthday with 8,000 lovely Kiwis at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival.

Feb. 9, 2013 Marlborough Food & Wine Festival
April 1st had us traveling to Zipolite, Mexico.  (A little off the beaten path.)

I had the opportunity to study with two great yoga teachers, Tim Feldman and Kathryn Budig. Inspiring.

This summer was wonderful. The weather was perfect and my SUP yoga business, Hang Zen did quite well. A price cannot be placed on doing what you love. 

I started a blog.

The fall brought an unexpected opportunity. My first contractor job. Although I have been renovating homes on my own for years, it's a different ball game when it belongs to someone else. So far it's been super. Homeowner's happy. I'm happy. It looks as if we will even finish on time and possibly ahead of schedule (don't want to jinx myself so I'll keep you posted).

You are reminiscent of a very handsome and high maintenance boyfriend. Glad to have you but more glad to see you go. Can't say it was an exclusively good or bad year. REALLY you were a lesson.

Exciting. Alluring. Full of possibilities.

Here's what I'm hoping for:
Kindness. Laughter. Forgiveness. Love. Food and Wine (in moderation). Yoga (without moderation). Travel (more Z locations please-but I'm open). Writing (a lot) more. As much time in and on the water as humanly possible.

Peace, love and happiness. A wish for you in 2014.

Happy New Year's!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beaujolais Nouveau - November 21st, 2013

The third Thursday in November every year has reason to be celebrated. It's the day that vintners from the Beaujolais region in France, rush to release this years  
                                                  Beaujolais Nouveau
Literally translated it means new wine from Beaujolais. A wine that merely 6-8 weeks before had been grapes on the vine. It's a young wine and meant to be drunk early (read: now). No need to cellar or hold. Typically it is best when consumed within 6 months. However, You certainly may partake 6, 8, up to 10-12 months later. 

According to a French law passed in 1985, the wine may not be released earlier than the third Thursday of November. So it has become almost a spectacle being delivered from bicycles to elephants to hot air balloons.  
Meaning, Parties all over the world in celebration.

Beaujolais Nouveau has been around for centuries. It was grown for and by the peasants. As much, it has also grown in popularity due to one man, who began as a peasant himself, Georges Duboeuf.* The simplicity of the wine is part of the draw to it. Pair it with most everything. From pizza or Thanksgiving dinner. (Thanks "Frenchies" for delivering it just in time.)

Enjoyable because it's very fruity without being overly sweet and also light bodied. Not aged in oak. The Gamay grape is very thin skinned so there's little to no tannins in this wine. This translates to a soft, drinkable wine.

Beaujolais Nouveau can parallel life: 

  • Have fun and enjoy it now! No need to wait. 
  • There are times for seriousness, this is not one of them.
  • Need an excuse to celebrate? Well here it is. 
  • Most of us come from humble beginnings.  

 Today's toast:     Make the most of life while you may, 
                          Life is short and wears away!      
                                                             -William Oldys

*Read - "I'll Drink To That. 
    and the French Peasant Who Made It 
     the World's Most Popular Wine."
                               by Rudolph Chelminski

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Wine Wednesday - Thanksgiving Edition

    Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Next Thursday to be exact. Most people plan extensively. Food, guests, seating, et cetera. But what about the wine? Although often overlooked, wine can be equally as important as the food. 

    Whether you seldom drink wine or frequently imbibe, it can be intimidating to choose the right vino.

    Alas. What do you serve, drink or bring? Depends. Will it be turkey, ham, duck, prime rib or vegetarian?

    I'm from the school of thought, "Drink what you enjoy". However choosing the right wine, really can make a difference. So for your eating and drinking pleasure, here are a few suggestions. Included are traditional pairings, both red and white, as well as wines that are appropriate but perhaps slightly unexpected.

    Let's talk Turkey! Stuffed, smoked, oven-roasted? How is your bird served? And what shall you serve with said bird?

    roast turkey
    Flying Colours Ltd./Getty Images
    Traditional oven-roasted/stuffed
    • Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino - if you're feeling adventurous
    • Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Nouveau* - It's new, it's fun!

    If it's smoked, bring the oak!
    • Chenin Blanc or Viognier
    • Shiraz or Garnacha

    • Riesling or Gruner Veltliner
    • Chianti/Barbera or Beaujolais Nouveau*

    • Pinot Gris/Grigio or Torrontes - "Don't cry for me Argentina" But thanks for the wine.
    • Merlot or Zinfandel

    Prime Rib
    • If you are so inclined to drink white, try a lightly oaked  Chardonnay
    • Malbec or Barolo

    Many times at a Thanksgiving table, there is A LOT going on. How do you choose a wine that will go with so much variety? Luckily there are options.
    -First, blends are wildly popular. They have a broad appeal and can be a solution on what to serve the multitudes. In fact, there are people who typically "don't like wine" but have been turned onto it by a blend. "The Gateway Wines"
    -Second, champagne or sparkling wine is always a good option. As I've said before, champagne goes with everything (including breakfast).  And a rose' sparkling (yes I'm referring to pink champagne) is very trendy now. It has a wide range from dry to sweet.  Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut RoseYou would be So very hip to have it at your table this Thanksgiving.

    Lastly, what do you serve or take when drinking wine isn't permitted or acceptable?


    Happy Thanksgiving!

    A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry 
                                                                    -Ecclesiastes 10:19

     *Check out the next blog about the buzz on Beaujolais Nouveau

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Wednesday, how do I love thee?

    Oh, How I LOVE thee, Wednesday!
    (The reasons may even surprise you.)

    Clearly, because it's HUMP DAY!
            (The camel commercial makes me bust out laughing but I was on board waaaaay before that.)

    Naturally, because it's WINE WEDNESDAY!

    But here's what makes me jump out of bed on Wednesday mornings, so excited for the day.
                                                     Travel discounts

    Yes, that's right. This is the day that a lot of the travel sites I subscribe to release their deals for the week.


    This Week's Top 20®

    Wednesday, August 28, 2013

    Wine Wednesday I

     Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is found.
                                                                  ~Yiddish proverb

    I like wine. I really like wine. A LOT.

    There is a  misconception that I'm some type of wine expert. (not true) But I really like wine.

    Case in point. When I went into my favorite wine/liquor store yesterday there was a new woman working. She passes me a few times, focusing on her tasks. Then she comes by and exclaims,
    Um....thanks (flattered-I think), but uh, no.

    And just so you know, I frequent this GREAT establishment often.  Even though they do NOT have the absolute lowest prices, NOR the most knowledgeable (wine) staff, NOR a HUGE inventory.
    However, they DO have friendly and helpful people.
    They ARE also very unpretentious (this is important to me).
    They WILL order whatever new and exotic wine I request (if they can get it-SILLY Oklahoma wine laws)  
    Yes. I text pictures to my wine shop and they graciously accommodate me.

    AND they think I'm a wine expert. (Although slightly untrue-it's not bad for my ego.)

    In the big picture, I know very little about wine. But I do know a few things. For example, did you know that wine is produced on every continent in the world except for Antarctica?
    And there's about 932 different varietals. From Abbuoto (Italy) to Zweigelt (Austria). Did you think Zinfandel would be the end of the list?
    Soooooo I may need to fact check the exact number. There IS a lot to know about to make me a, so called expert, which, I repeat, I am not.

    But I do know a little... I know what I do and don't like. I've done my fair share (and yours AND your sister's) of drinking wine. So I DO have some real world experience and have established some rules/guidelines for drinking wine. I am also very interested in learning. So not only do I drink wine, but I read about it as well. And I don't mind sharing my experience with those willing to listen.

    Here's the beginning of a loooooong list. There will be a more comprehensive list in the near future. Detailing things such as pairings (scary), varietals, history, etc. But for now, here's a few tips:
    1. If it smells like dirty feet, don't drink it. (also smelling like BO or armpits would apply as well)
    2. It doesn't have to be expensive to be good (or great) wine.
    3. Don't be afraid to try a new/different wine. What's the worst thing that could happen?
    4. Wine shared with a friend can be the best therapy. Also it could save you $$$ on therapy.
    5. Use your good stemware! And drink that "good" bottle of wine! Think of today as "that special occasion" If you actually wake up, then that's "special occasion" worthy.
    6. If/When in Europe i.e. France, Spain, Italy, etc. drink the house wine. What you drink for 3-5 euros ($5-10US) may very well be the best thing you drink that day or perhaps ever. (Not exclusive to Europe either)
    7. You don't need special or particular glassware to drink wine. Sometimes a plastic cup leaves the best memories. 
    8. Always touch the glass of all present and say "Cheers!" (or "Skol! Proust! Campai! Slainte'! Chin! Chin!"-whatever is  befitting) and look whoever you're with directly in the eyes. (Or according to El Salvadoran tradition, it could ruin your sex life-are you willing to risk it?)
    9. Know your limits and drink responsibly. (really this should be #1)
    10. Rose' is now back in fashion. (this is not the white zin of yesteryear)
    11. Drink what you like and on your terms. You might like your white less chilled or perhaps your red slightly cool. (I'll try not to be judgy about that)
    12. Champagne is always appropriate and never goes out of style.
    So yeah, this is only the beginning. It's not sacred wine law or anything. Some of it is wisdom and knowledge gleaned over the years. Mostly it's just my observations.

    I hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned for more on the next Wine Wednesday.