Monthly Archives: March 2012

Los Monitos’ Wine and Language series made the news (Hear me say, “I would like some wine, please!” in French)

Man, these morning shows are like clockwork and a rapid fire gun show combined.

When Bill from Los Monitos Language Center called to tell me our Wine and Language series — the French part of which I’ll be teaching next week — was going on the air, I said I’ve always dreamed of being a star.

Hardy har.

Our four point two-five minutes of pure fame flew by so fast I didn’t even have time to check out the cool teleprompters. We sat down on that skinny grey couch and no sooner had I been hooked up to a mic and shaken the hands of Terry and Rachel, than the cameraman announced “ten seconds” and we were live.

I have no idea how I remembered my French.

But I did! Which leads me to believe I just need more time in front of the camera to get comfortable…

I’d love it if you got a chuckle out of the video…and I’d be even more thrilled if my Louisville readers made it to Vint next week for wine and French on the patio.

Hope to see you there!



Filed under Culture, Language, Wine

Clif Family Winery: bringing new meaning to “wine” and “bar”

I’ve been a fan of Clif energy bars ever since my dad started eating them for breakfast about ten years ago. (Yes, for breakfast.) Organic and packed with fiber and protein, not to mention very tasty, they were a staple during my college years, and I battled to limit my consumption to pre-workouts with the crew team.

As much as I loved the bars, it was news to me that the Clif “family” has a winery too. I met Phil Roberts, regional sales manager for Clif Family Winery, last weekend at the Cincinnati Wine Festival and was pretty impressed with the lineup. I tasted Kit’s Killer Cab and Gary’s Improv Zinfandel, but I was most intrigued by their Climber Pouch series: an unoaked Chardonnay from Northern California and a Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, both packed in hiker-biker-explorer friendly pouches.

“They’re convenient and they last up to one month after opening,” Phil explained. “You should write about it!”

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can honestly say there was no other solicitation.

“You’re right,” I said. “I should!” I jotted myself a “clif note” on the back of Phil’s business card.

So here I am, still pretty taken with the whole pouch idea. Most of you know I consider myself traditional when it comes to labeling and bottling. I’m not into little black dresses on wine labels and I steer clear of most non-glass packaging (boxed wine: egad!). But I like this idea. It’s pioneering in an organic, CSA way, rather than in the manipulative, chemistry experiment way that is getting a bad rap these days.

Clif is a large company with a line of products including Luna Bar and a range of services, like their weekly Community Supported Agriculture efforts, which deliver fruits and veggies to locals in the St. Helena, CA area. Despite its size, however, the brand does a good job standing by the down home image evoked by “Clif Family Farm.” They aim to create “unique regional wines” with a taste of terroir and what seems like a healthy dose of fun. (The description for Kit’s Killer Cab includes “cherry cola and spice” among its flavors!)

I appreciate that they don’t take themselves so seriously, and that the “all terrain wine transport” pouches made it through to production. Coming from the Clif Bar people it makes perfect sense. Gary and Kit are both adventurers, and the idea for the Climber wine had its origins in biking trips in the French and Italian Alps. Can you blame them for wanting to make such a beverage more portable?

So yes, for a girl who likes to write about good old fashioned French wine, this concept is pretty out there. I like it though. In my opinion, there’s a place for all kinds of respectfully made wines. Given this company’s sustainability philosophy and the sheer convenience of the Climber pouch, I’d say Clif Family Winery should have a place in every outdoorsy explorer’s heart!

PS: Notice that the climber on the front of the pouch seems to be scaling a stream of flowing wine. Genius, I tell you!

Photo credits

Click here to read the translation from Melie! Continue reading


Filed under Wine

Wine is not a cocktail, it’s a condiment

Wine is alcohol, so wine is a cocktail.

It’s 8:00 pm and I’m in my running clothes, sitting on the floor with wine books around me. The phone is tucked between cheek and shoulder as I bend over a piece of scrap paper and take notes. Daniel, whom I think I can rightly call my wine mentor by now, is on a roll, spouting out facts and figures, recommending wine writers, and coming up with publishing analogies to make sure I get what he’s talking about. (Alluding to the value of studying wine before I am professionally involved in the industry, he says “it’s like a writer going into publishing. The job becomes less about writing and more about marketing.”)

I struggle to write fast enough, getting only fragments of sentences down before Daniel switches gears and is on to the next subject.  Tonight he stresses the importance of understanding the American mentality toward wine, and how people in the industry must react to that perspective.

“Americans don’t drink wine before they are in their 30’s,” he says definitively. He pauses, but not long enough for me to mention I’m an exception to that rule.

“First of all, there is no wine culture for us before we are 21, because it’s illegal. That means many of us get our introduction to alcohol in college, where we drink sugary concoctions to mask the cheap liquor taste. But we get used to it. Most of us are raised on sugar anyway, so we might actually like it. Then, out of college, we stick with what we know, which is syrupy sweet. When it is finally appropriate for us to drink wine (let’s face it, college kids associate it with snobbishness), we want it sugary, or big  and alcoholic, and we want to sip it like we sipped our cheap cocktails. But wine is not a cocktail to be sipped. It is a condiment.”

I wasn’t expecting that. Wine is a condiment? The first thing that pops into my mind is a big, red bottle of ketchup on a picnic table. Wine is a condiment?

But I have no time to protest.

“I like to call it synergy,” Daniel says. “Food-wine synergy.”

I write it down.

“You wouldn’t eat ketchup by itself. You wouldn’t sip salad dressing. Wine is like that. It always goes with food.”

I’m surprised he doesn’t have any qualms with referring to ketchup and wine in the same context. “A condiment, Daniel?” I ask. “Really?”

With a shrug I can imagine over the phone, he acknowledges my hesitancy with pure confidence. “Really,” he says. Period.

“We have to reach out to the consumer with this in mind, always encouraging them to expand their palates. We have to talk to them about terroir and sub-appellations, and the fact that southern French wine pairs perfectly with Herbes de Provence for a reason; that Muscadet is made for mollusks because its grapes are salted by the Atlantic.”

Remembering my famous bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges, I mentally add Burgundy pinot noir with the local sauce à l’Epoisse to the list.

“As people start to get to know wine,” Daniel continues, “they can choose which best complements their meal. But if they don’t try a lot of wine, they’ll stick with what they know. And we have to get them away from the unfortunate wine-as-cocktail schema!”

I chuckle to myself. Wine as ketchup is better than wine as cocktail?

But what he says is true, and I respect Daniel for using the unflattering term “condiment.” It brings the whole subject of wine down to earth and forces us to wonder in which context wine is at its best. It really is meant to be drunk with food. The French philosophy that it is best to beraisonableapplies here: is it ever very reasonable to drink without at least a little something to eat at the same time?

As our conversation concludes — five pages of notes later — I think about the experiences I have had drinking wine in France. Call it the power of suggestion, but a host of pairings comes to mind: Chignin and fondue, Nuits-Saint-Georges or Aloxe Corton and coq au vin, vin jaune from the Jura and a slice of comte cheese, Champagne and popcorn, crepes and cider… Every region has its wine, and every dish has its drink! It has been fun to learn about the pairings, and to branch out from the old, and very general, standby of white wine with fish and poultry, red wine with dark meat.

If you’ve recently experienced great food-wine synergy, let me know. If not, what are you waiting for?!


Click here to read the translation from my future belle-soeur! Continue reading


Filed under Culture, Food, Inspiration, Wine

Life in Images: First real snow. (Where are those little spring birdies now?)

{7:30 a.m.}

Did I say there were little birdies chirping outside my window last week? This morning I woke to Winter’s second wind! As is often typical in Kentucky, it ain’t over till it’s over.

{Dad and Reve}

{School is not out.}

{The daffodils thought it was spring too. I rescued them when it started snowing last night.}


Filed under Home, Horses, Kentucky

Swiss Chard, parmesan rinds, and white beans: a unique recipe for the end of winter and a colorful welcome to spring

It seems like springtime here in Kentucky. I slept with my window open last night and awoke to birds chirping in the tree outside. Spring birds. Happy birds.

They reminded me that in a few weeks it will be too late to make one of my favorite winter soups. (Sure, you can make hearty soup in spring, but it’s just so much more satisfying when it is cold outside!)

As I washed and patted my chard to the sound of white beans boiling on the stove, I thought, it would be a shame not to take a picture of this beautiful bouquet. I ran for my camera.

Not all chard is technicolor, so I recommend searching for “Rainbow Chard” in the supermarket. When it is packed together in the produce section, you can’t see what surprises are in store. It’s a real pleasure to unwrap the tie that binds the leaves, revealing bright red, pink, orange, and yellow stems. More than the recipe, this is what I wanted to share with you. It made me smile, and although I was using it to make a good hearty soup, I couldn’t help but think again of spring when I saw that rainbow in my hands!

*Some people are leery of using greens in soup, and a lot of people have never tried chard. Please, oh, please do! It is subtle, almost sweet — not at all like spinach — and delicious!


Parmesan Broth with Swiss chard and White Beans

A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all.Serves 4 to 6.

Over low heat, steep 8 cups chicken stock with 8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. // In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until garlic just begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled; 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons; and stir to coat. //Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon lemon zest. To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread and drizzle with olive oil. —Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York (Click here for full article)

{Hello, from Rêve}

Click here to see it in French, from Mélie: Continue reading

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Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes/Cooking