Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten Years of Tastings.

Every month, David and I host a wine tasting at our place. We invite our best friends, The Rileys, and we have 2 guest seats that we fill with different friends each month. Tonight we're celebrating 10 years of doing these wine tastings.

We're often asked how we started doing this. In February 2004, David had a bottle of Italian Merlot in his cellar that was ready to drink. He invited me and another friend over to join him for tasting it, with the condition that we each brought another bottle of Italian Merlot. We poured all three at once and smelled, drank and compared. Being able to have a sense of comparison and the chance to drink 3 of these wines at the same time proved a great learning experience. We didn't take notes that night, and I can't remember if we tasted them blind or not. We enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again the next month, knowing that Ali & Andy, then only dating, would be a fun addition to the group, plus they were eager to learn more about wine. From then on, it's been essentially the same format. 6 wines, all tasted blind and 6 tasters. These events started with the main purpose being for all of us to learn more about wine. We had the added bonus of a standing date with The Rileys once a month.

Over the course of these 10 years there have been weddings, puppies, babies born (well, just one baby!), trains missed and people going to work in the same clothes as the day before, 90s era dance parties, U2 concerts, surprisingly few broken glasses, a field trip to Montreal, red Cote du Rhones brought instead of white, one person accuse David of his glass being empty (is that even possible?), one accidental boob grab, one heartfelt compliment for David's housekeeping, two bottles of Champagne that came in first and last (label those bottles!), stories of getting high off of nutmeg, smells of wines being described as towns in New Jersey (never a compliment), had many hangovers and so much laughing that I can't even keep track. We've tasted over 80 different types of wine, and didn't repeat any until 2010!

Ten years later, all of us have developed our own tastes and opinions about wine. We've discovered what we like and have an enthusiasm for the craft of making it and continuing to learn more about it. I'm reminded today of my favorite quote from Maya in Sideways about why she got into wine.
I like to think about the life of wine. How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your '61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.
Drinking and appreciating wine is something everyone can enjoy, and should. Tomorrow is Open that Bottle Night. So, if you have a bottle gathering dust, waiting for some special occasion (which will never present itself) go ahead and open that bottle tomorrow and share it with good friends. That's the special occasion.

David's kept notes of each tasting on his website, you can check them out here. Tonight we're revisiting Italian Merlots, and will toast to the last 10 years, and the next 10.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I hate the phrase: Back to Reality.

Yesterday we got home from an amazing trip. At the risk of using a total cliché, I'll even call it a trip of a lifetime. (If Angkor Wat doesn't qualify for that cliché, then I don't know what does.) First, we spent a week in Vietnam visiting David's family. His parents moved there about a year and a half ago. We visited with them and met a lot of cousins and people who hadn't seen David since they moved to Hawaii when he was less than a year old. We traveled to Vung Tau, the town they lived in when he was born, and spent a night in Saigon, a complete overload of the senses. We ate food while sitting in little plastic chairs, took our life into our hands crossing the street, and toured around Tay Nihn on the backs of motor bikes.

From Vietnam we flew over to Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. We watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, we sat at the Banyon Temple in Angkor Thom and gazed up at 200 buddha faces, and we lit incense in small temples where women would put bracelets on our wrists. We learned first hand why Cambodia is sometimes referred to as the land of a thousand smiles. The people had a friendliness and warmth that we just fell in love with.

Today we're getting back to work, doing mountains of laundry, dealing with bitter cold temperatures and fighting jet lag. Inevitably, when we get back from a trip, someone always says to us, "Well, back to reality."

That phrase, back to reality, is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Why? Because the experience I just had is my reality. It's as much a reality as the work I grind through to make the money to have that experience. It's as much of a reality as the mountains of laundry I have to do. We love to travel and we make it a part of our life by making decisions in our life so that we are able to do it.

Lately it seems that only negative things are allowed to be "reality" and not the amazing things too. The standard answer to, "How are you?" has become, "Busy." What's the point in being so busy if it doesn't afford you time to also be happy, inspired or awestruck? Or maybe we feel like we can't talk about those things too because we'll seem lazy or selfish because we want time that we're not working. I'm not sure of the answer, but I am making a smooth transition from one part of my reality to another, and I'm loving it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Trip, New Journal

Happy New Year!

2014 seems to be a year that a lot of people seem excited about. For a lot of people, including us, 2013 was a bit of a strange year. I'm looking forward to 2014 and what will hopefully be a fun and exciting year.

To kick things off, we'll be visiting Asia in February! D's parents moved to Vietnam not too long ago, so we thought it was a good time for a visit. We'll be spending the first half of the trip with his parents, and traveling to places around Southern Vietnam, including the town where D's parents lived when he was born. The second half of the trip we've decided to visit Cambodia, specifically the temples of Angkor Wat. Now that it's starting to get closer, it feels real and we are beside ourselves with excitement.

As usual, a trip requires a journal and I designed one especially for this trip. The past few we've taken, I've felt like my journal was a little big, especially if I wanted to use a smaller bag for the day. The bigger the bag, the more stuff I end up carrying, the heavier it gets, and the more of other people's stuff I start carrying. I like to keep it light and avoid feeling weighted down and crabby.

The bag I bought for this trip has a side pocket that I thought would be perfect for a journal, but it is a bit small for what a long trip would require. I decided to try a two journal solution. I made one small folio that fits one signature. There is a flap on the back that I tuck the back page of the signature into, and it makes for a very slim journal, but also one that has a hard cover.

As I fill each signature, I'll swap out a new one, and then sew the completed one with a quick pamphlet stitch into my thicker journal, where I've already pierced the sewing stations. At the end of the trip, everything will be neatly in one journal, but I don't have to carry the fat one with me every day. I love it!!!! I also put a pocket into the back of the thicker one, in case I want to save any ephemera from along the way.

I also enjoyed making a title page for the beginning of the journal. My second page is usually information for returning the journal if found (my worst fear) and then our flight details so that I have everything handy.

Now that the journal is ready, I'm trying to get my brain into drawing mode. I get hung up on not being "good" at drawing, yet when I look back through past journals, I always enjoy seeing lots of drawings. While they may not be "good" they do slow me down on a trip, and I remember the things I drew differently. So between now and when we leave, I'm going to be trying to draw for 15 minutes each day to get myself used to it again.