Month: January 2017

Crux Winery 2013 GSM Red Blend

In my book, you can’t call yourself a Rhone Ranger unless you make a decent GSM. Look at the fine print in my book and it also says that those individual components have to shine on their own — Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Well, if you look in the glossary of my book under Rhone Ranger, you’ll see a picture of Steve and Brian of Crux Winery. Not only do they do justice for the Rhone-style, but they grow and produce these typically warm-weathered grapes in the heart of Northern California’s Russian River Valley.

Read more about Crux Winery here.

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Tercero Wines 2011 Grenache

Grenache can be a hard grape to grow, let alone enjoy as a single-varietal bottle. Traditionally used for blending purposes, Grenache’s tendency toward high acidity and fruit forward flavors make it the ideal backbone for Rhone-style blends like GSM, contrasting and thus balancing the heavier, heartier, and earthier components (in this example, Syrah and Mourvèdre). So when I see a single-varietal bottle of Grenache, I simultaneously smile and cringe (my face is probably quite the site at that point) because I’m excited at the prospect of a Grenache, but experience has led me to predict disappointment. On the one hand, the grape is what it is: bright, fruity, acidic. On the palate this amounts to a simultaneously austere and flabby wine — lean, yes, but without structure or purpose (much like a person can be skinny with a high percentage of body fat, aka skinny-fat). On the other hand, wine producers, knowing what the purity of the Grenache grape will produce, tend to want to mask these features with excessive amount of new oak. On the palate this becomes the actual definition of flabby — the fruit, the acid, the oak all maintain their individuality, never melding together to create a balanced body (much like that same skinny-fat person eating a high protein diet to try to gain muscle without working out — he or she will just get, well, fat).

There is, however, an achievable balance when it comes to Grenache. But it requires the right variables to be in place — namely the terroir, the climate, and a skilled winemaker. Welcome to Tercero Wines 2011 Grenache.

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La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014

I don’t like La Crema. And yet here I am on a cold winter night, wrapped in a warm blanket, supper furry UGG socks on, listening to the rain tap the window while the heater coughs up warm, if not a bit dusty, air. Oh yeah, and I’m drinking La Crema Chardonnay.

The act of drinking La Crema is, for me, a solo act — a bit like sneaking cookies after your parents go to bed. The utter butteriness, the creaminess that coats the mouth, that full-bodied, if not a bit fatty, texture on the tongue — you know you shouldn’t, and on most days you don’t. But when it’s what you’re craving…it’s what you have to have.

It’s ok, no one has to know. It’s our little secret. I won’t tell if you don’t…

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Zenaida Cellars Syrah 2014

I’m trying to plan a trip to Paso Robles. When I finally get there I know one of my first stops has to be Zenaida Cellars. They have killer Rhone-style wines — just check out their flagship red blend Fire Sign. But I think one of the main indicators of a truly stand-out Rhone-style winemaker are his or her take on the individual components: I want to know that the G, the S, and the M can stand on their own. Today I present to you the S of Zenaida Cellars — the 2014 Zenaida Cellars Syrah.

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Some amazing buildings

Minimalism and geometric.

When you are alone for days or weeks at a time, you eventually become drawn to people. Talking to randos is the norm. I’ll never forget the conversation with the aquarium fisherman, forest ranger, and women at the Thai market. It’s refreshing to compare notes on life with people from vastly different backgrounds.

When you meet fellow travelers, you’ll find they are also filled with a similar sense of adventure and curiosity about the world. Five days of friendship on the road is like five months of friendship at home. It’s the experiences that bond you together, not the place. A rule I followed that worked well: be the first to initiate conversation. I met some incredible people by simply being the first to talk.

Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.

Take the cost of your rent or mortgage + food per month and divide it by 30. This is how much it costs per day to live at home. You will find that it’s possible to travel the world for roughly the same amount. Or, if you live in an expensive city like San Francisco, far less.

An universal language.

I was surprised how many people spoke English (apparently 1.8 billion people worldwide). Places where English was less prevalent, I made an effort to learn a handful of words and phrases in the local language. Even though it’s passable, I do desire to learn another language fluently. You can only take the conversation so far when all you can say is: “¿Esto contiene gluten?”

It’s possible to communicate a lot without saying a word. For instance, I left my phone at a restaurant in Chile. I pointed at the table where I was sitting, put my hand to my ear like a phone, then shrugged — 2 minutes later, my phone had been retrieved.