At some point recently, the Negress ran out of options. The kindness of friends and strangers was exhausted, and the social services gang had nothing to offer but food stamps. There ‘s rent to be paid and job searches to continue via the Internet. She has acquired a roommate, a charming medical student named Nafees, but that’s not enough. Besides being too broke to pay attention, she is too broke to make a down payment on filing for bankruptcy (no excuses but there are reasons). If you can help, click on either of the “Go Fund Me” on this page. There may be knitting or pie in your future if you can help. Also, feel free to pass the word, all 60 of you who read this regularly.
Archive for the ‘Wines of the world in danger’ Category
The Negress is not a Chardonnay person. It’s not an unusual prejudice. She doesn’t stereotype Chardonnay drinkers except for one instance when she was on a boat to Christchurch, New Zealand. She was drowning here sorrows in Diet Coke and looking at her fresh road rash from the sheep station road. As she contemplated her torn flesh and sipped her caffeinated bliss, she saw a man chomping on a cigar wander up to the bar on the boat. He said in what was a Texas accent, “Give me one of them oaky, buttery Chardonnays.” Besides the indications of Dead Palate Syndrome that the request signaled, the man was in New Zealand in 2003, for pity’s sake. He was within sputtering distance of some tasty Sauvignon Blanc (this was before the Kiwis upped the acid level and emphasized immaturity so that some of their worst wines now taste like green pepper marinated in lime juice), but he wanted Chateau 2 X 4 with movie popcorn butter on top.
All this is to say that the Amorosa Bella and James Family Chardonnays (2010 both) would have annoyed our cigar chomper. These wines are full-bodied but light on their feet, and pair nicely with strong flavors as well as more delicate foods. They are neither too naughty or too nice. There’s a touch of minerality to each that is usually bludgeoned to death by more careless winemakers. If you are the sort of person who cringes when the phrase “California Chardonnay” is uttered, you will drink these and ask for more. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that allows direct shipping, try the folks at Cellars of Sonoma in Santa Rosa. These wines were featured in their wine club in the past two years so they may have some lying around.
A little closer to home for some of you is the 2009 Pasqua Valpolicella Ripasso Speciale 2009, which found its way into the Negress’ cart at Trader Joe’s. As a rule, she avoids most of the Trader Joe’s cheap and cheerful wines, because they usually do not make her happy (see the Jolly Rancher episode) But the Pasqua retailed for $10, making it a Pol Roget compared to some of the crap they sell. However, as much as she loves Valpolicellas, this was not one to write home about. Her take on the Italian favorite involves roast meat and earthy flavors and she knows not to expect Amarone when she’s kissing his younger, more callow cousin. But, this was a wine like many wines; not so bad as to require a screed condemning anything and anyone who had been part of its coming to store shelves. Pasqua 2009 is the epitome of ’meh.’ In short, 24 oz. you should have replaced with something memorable. And sometimes that doesn’t involve wine. Stay tuned.
2012 year in review: In which Canada distracts the Negress from depression, bloody mayhem and bad wineDecember 31, 2012
The Negress is quite ready to be done with 2012. This is a year that deserves to be tossed away with both hands. She had friends blown sideways by a crazy, globally heated storm with boat and homes going every which way. She continued her fierce love of Chicago, but now found it mixed up the strain of building a business on communicating when she never felt less like speaking, making phone calls or getting out of bed. So, 2012, please get the hell out of here so she can get on with it. She will keep listening to 54.40, Dan Mangan, the Tragically Hip and other Canadians she hopes will return to Chicago when she has the cash to go see them.
What The Negress wants to get on with is knitting, reading, cooking and keeping herself healthy. That has actually gone pretty well with weight and the shedding of at least three diabetes medications. Crohn’s seems to know its place but she’s somewhat afraid to even think that. If you’re interested in the year in wine, nose around the rest of the blog and read. She briefly worked for an e-magazine called Uncorked before it went under; settling the $1,125 it owed her for a mere $225. There’s a plum assignment looming that has been looming for a few weeks. Once the secret is out, things will be good but just looking at the books (including one she wrote a chapter in) she needs to skim has her nervous
As for the other books she’s read, she adored “Gone Girl,” is still on p. 200 of “1Q84” and hopes Robert Caro doesn’t die before he finishes the LBJ biography (she’s read through “Master of the Senate,” but wants to finish all of it). She’s seen friends retire (buen suerte Juan), fade (you’re not reading this if you were one of those), sober up, and graduate (way to go nephew JT). There was some good news amongst all the bloodshed.
The Negress still loves music, wine, hockey (she misses it, wants it back and will settle for the college game and the Wolves until further notice) and men and women. She and golf are seeing other sports, but will get back together once her broken foot heals.
The Negress went on a road trip or two, spending time in Ohio, DC, NJ, PA (crossing the Poconos could not have been achieved without all those Canadian bands on The Verge), Ohio again, Michigan and then home. Baseball is still in the picture but the late-season collapse of the White Sox and the Nationals’ early playoff exit were hard to take. She’s officially done with Astros, leaving them before they make their shameful transition to the American League. The Negress isn’t sure she knows who they are anymore. She also feels that way about SABR, so she’s pondering an exit strategy there too..
The Mazda and her home are good, but she needs to get back to work in a stupendous way. May 2013 be your lucky number too (Lene Lovich, sorry about that).
The Negress has been battling her day job to a satisfying draw and thought it was best to catch up on some wine that had passed through the premises of late. The first was a bottle of 1997 Vouvray that was part of her Urbana stash. In fact, it was the last bottle in said stash that could have been consumed by humankind without dire consequences. If you decipher the label in the blurry photo that is embedded in this post, you’ll have a slightly better idea of what the Negress is talking about.
First of all, some caveats: The Negress has a volatile relationship with French whites. Sancerre makes her skin itch and sprout hives (this was well before Sancerre became this year’s Muscat thanks to the whip-me-beat-me-make-me-write-bad-checks trilogy know to some as the 50 Shades books. The Negress has written some checks that would make a bouncy castle a hazmat zone, but she didn’t need a wealthy sadist to persuade her.)
Back to the wine. The Vouvray drank like a faded photograph; its demi-sec qualities muted by a little too much aging in the humidity of a central Illinois basement.) You could taste the bone structure but the flesh was weak with age. However, it made the Negress want to find a more recent vintage for comparison. The other wines in the picture are reliably splendid with the only surprise being the Gann Family cellars Malbec, which was chocolaty and rich. Heidi Barrett Peterson’s La Sirena Syrah is a monster wine, and the 2005 and 2006 we found in our cellar are fully ripe and voluptuous without being overpowering.
But, in this world, the rough follows quickly on the heels of the smooth. The Negress hasn’t purchased a bottle of wine in Trader Joe’s in ages. She has some nice stuff cellared (Cain Five, part of a Spring Mountain vertical) and she bought another case of the Bonny Doon Ca de Oro Muscat, so she’s in good shape.
However, put a nice guy at an in-store tasting and she’s no different from any other newbie out there. So she came home with the bottle of of 2011 Paso Robles Zinfandel and some New Zealand creamy cheese. The cheese vanished as they do between phone calls for work and furious knitting.
Once the Zin was open, the Negress was fully flummoxed. The wine tasted like candy — as in “I Want Candy” or “the candy colored clown they call the Sandman.” If she were the promiscuous writer of drinking notes like some of her ilk, she would have noted the wine’s “unusual Jolly Rancher finish.” It has long been said that Americans talk dry and drink sweet, but this is ridiculous. Never again, not even to warn all 10 of you who read this. It’s back to the music and the good stuff.
The Negress did some listening, drinking and driving as she wandered through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, DC, NYC, Detroit and then back home again with a nail in one tire, a broken bone in one foot and near complete mastery of one set of FINRA arcania.
Through it all she quaffed a few microbrews (Bell’s Oberon and Motor City GhettoBlaster were the least notable), heard some stories, drove thousands of miles and learned a few things. Her lower back is permanently molded in the shape of a car seat, and she has fallen in love with some music again.
Upon arrival back at her home, she renewed her relationship with the 2008 Casa Silva Syrah Carmenere Rose. It’s a $10 buck wine from Chile, and it has hit all the right notes for this balmy Chicagoland fall. The wine is a deep russet with enough heft on the palate to hold up nicely to some fiery chili the Negress whipped up last week. She recently exchanged some trash talk with fellow wine enthusiast Dale Cruse about her distaste for white wine after Labor Day. Her rule of thumb is if it’s cellar temperature outside (mid 50s or so here since she stores white, red and pink), then white wine is not on her table. She knows all about more robust whites, but she doesn’t care. Put the white wine with the white shoes after Labor Day (she did make an exception when she was a guest in Detroit since she’s polite when it counts).
Anyway, all of this traveling, studying and preparing of spicy fall foods needed a soundtrack and the Negress found several. First of all, she happened on Blitzen Trapper in Grand Forks when she visited there. Grand Forks is likely the most isolated college town in America (if there’s one more isolated, she doesn’t want to go there). However, if a band is coming East from Portland, OR, and is headed either to Winnipeg or The Cities (nativespeak for Minneapolis-St. Paul), stopping in da Forks is likely. So Blitzen Trapper stopped, the Negress danced and bought two albums and a T-shirt. “American Goldwing” and “Furr” are the kinds of records that are invasive in their pleasures. Going from zero to adolescent obsession took no time at all. Their sound is too gelid and focused to be consigned to the jam band scrapheap. Also, as her chorister pal noted, their diction is impeccable; a good thing when the words are worth hearing. Find them. You won’t be sorry. They’re opening for The Head and the Heart and then Brandi Carlile during the next couple of months.
When she isn’t wearing out Blitzen Trapper, the Negress listens to the Canadian rock channel on satellite radio (this trip would not have been possible without satellite radio). By doing this, she has added Metric, the Acorns, Rural Alberta Movement (their “Muscle Relaxants,” if mixed with the rose, could end badly), Japandroids and others to Feist and the Arcade Broken Pornographic Social Scene. She sometimes wishes the channel would dig deeper and pull out some 54.40 or another of her favorites, but not happening.
Except for this weekend. The Tragically Hip, the only band ever to write a song mentioning Bill Barilko (“Fifty Mission Cap”), have a new record coming out so they were all over the channel this weekend. The Negress has forgotten how great those guys are. She hopes the new record brings them to Chicago so she can moon over Gord Downie and lift her spirits high. Yeah, those spirits; the ones not crushed by the stupid absence of pro hockey from the continent.
The Negress has been trying to help people and build her business. As a result of one of those activities (a trip to Urbana to help a pal clean out her dead mot
hers house), she lucked into a pleasant flashback. The friend’s parents were 50s style “Mad Men” drinkers with cases of booze and wine stacked up in a damp basement. Quite a bit of the wine didn’t survive that cavalier treatment, but a case did. So the Negress brought it back to Chicago.
First up was a 1993 Bogle Zinfandel, which was 12.5% abv, making it a puny drink compared to the big-ass Zins populating various cellars and stores these days. The Bogle was a pale garnet and had the slightly ethereal taste of a wine past its prime. It was as though the Negress was tasting the ghost of the fruit, which only made her wish she could have gotten her hands on this bottle a little sooner. Color this one pale and stale.
Next was a 2002 Beringer Zinfandel with 13.9% abv. This wine had held up beautifully, with rich notes of dark fruit and an almost chocolate-like feel. It paired nicely with the last of some chili the Negress was glad of during this frigid spring. She suspects most folks buying Beringer’s 2002 vintage drank it well before 2004. If you find some of this hiding in a corner somewhere, pull the cork. You will not be disappointed.
While the Negress adores big Zins almost as much as she loves just about any Petit Sirah, she was confronted with a saddle of elk at a recent dinner at the Gage here in Chicago. She had recently had a venison burger at this fabulous boite, and paired that with a 2009 Vina Sastre Tinto Ribera del Duero (all Tempranillo all the time). The elk was gamier than the venison but more subtle than she would have expected. Her dining companion recommended the 2009 Three Saints Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley in California. Excellent pairing and one of the few California Pinots that hadn’t been vinified to resemble a Cabernet with a head cold.
The next time the Negress opens one of the oldies from Urbana, she will check in here and tell you all about it. But, for now, it’s back to the inhalers, work life its very own self.
The Negress has been flitting through several realms of late. Alcohol was banished for Lent so not much to report there. Music comes and goes. Work is front and center, and is going well as far as she can tell. Hockey is good with the Devils surging and one of her future ex-husbands, Johnny Oduya, now a member of the Blackhawks. Right now, the Blackhawks can use all the help they can get.
With the impending arrival of spring and the annual crash landing of Daylight Savings Time, the Negress needed a respite from all the hard thinking she’d been doing preparing for the toughest part of her FINRA registration. So she flipped the dial to her favorite Top 40 (these days known as CHR for Contemporary Hit Radio) station, Z100, in New York. It’s available online and on satellite radio.
One quick conclusion she came to was that there are only about eight or nine songs in deuterium rotation, most involving Katy Perry, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Pitbull, FloRida and Drake. Ke$ha(her Twitter handle is @keshasuxx, which we love) and Lady Gaga show up, but not often enough for our tastes.
Also, prolonged exposure all of this mindless Auto-Tuned robot pop can shave a few dozen points off your IQ. You may not notice immediately, but it does happen. You say “awesome” a lot. You wanna party with, like, your friends and stuff.
However, the Negress is quick to declare her enduring love for commercial radio, especially the triple-A station here in Chicago, WXRT. She especially thanks them for Mumford and Sons and even some of the Fleet Foxes. The new Springsteen single is running heavy there now, which in its own way is as irritating as the robot pop. The Negress escaped after 12 or so years in Jersey without gaining a Springsteen obsession. She likes him and the E Streeters fine, but not to the point of rearranging her life.
Sorry for the long rest periods here, but the Negress is busy. Back as soon as something worth talking about happens. In the meantime, roll down your windows and blast some tunes. It feels like opening a can of spring. Baseball helps with that too, so do it. Go Sox (White, not Red)!
(December 2012 update: Still love Fleet Foxes, but the arrival of the second Mumford and Sons record killed that crush dead. Enough ballistic folks with predictable dynamics. As for Ke$ha, “The Warrior” is step in her adult heels, but “Die Young” wins the Artie Fufkin award for entering the charts at No. 1 the worst time on the worst week ever.
Your beloved Negress has been absent from her little corner of the bandwidth universe because she is getting Uncorked weekly, glorying in a new job and preparing for a convoluted solution to an ongoing health problem. She’s also been digging some tunes and reconnecting with pals old and new.
So, the new job. It’s a good one and it lets the Negress work as hard as she wants and enjoy the gains from that work. She can also help people, advocate for a company culture that has no peers in a business usually awash in short-term thinkers and brain-dead leadership. Thanks to some Federal regulations, she’s not going to say more than that here, but she’s very happy.
As for wine, a 21-day course of Augmentin has put almost all of her alcohol consumption on hold. This particular antibiotic leaves a metallic taste on everything. Add Prednisone and inhaled steroids, and wine is no fun. Woodford Reserve slices through the effluvia like a well-sharpened knife, but the Negress is too busy and happy to slip into an uncontrolled stupor. Also, she’s about to put her debilitating allergies where they belong. These drugs are a prelude to an effective protocol that should allow her to go outdoors with less agony.
However, she is still writing about wine. Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Nomad Editions, she executes a weekly column for Uncorked magazine, which is designed for tablet consumption, but can be viewed on any screen. You can get the app from iTunes, and view sample issues. Going all in costs a budget-friendly $9.99 annually. Read. Comment. Drink. It’s all to the good.
As for the tunes, the Negress caught both halves of the annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival. The first, headlined by David Grisman and Del McCroury, was satisfying, especially when the old “dawgs’ teamed up on a tribute to Bill Monroe (McCroury, now 72 with hair as immobile as Mitt Romney’s, was one of Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys). The Negress also gives big props to the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, which is beautiful and acoustically perfect.
While she does appreciate that Jerry Garcia’s love of American string band and acoustic music led a lot of Deadheads to embrace the bluegrass way, she fervently hopes they learn how to behave. This is not to say they have to go all Bluebird Cafe solemn and silent, but all that hairy-footed Hobbit dancing accessorized by patchouli and Hacky Sacks is hard to take. The Negress almost screamed, “The last train to the Shire is leaving in 15 minutes. Haul it, friends.” But she demonstrated the restraint they seemed incapable of.
The next weekend was another story. The Negress headed to the Congress Theatre to check out theDrive-By Truckers, Joe Pug and Dawes. Pug and the Truckers were transcendent and fine, with Pug winning points for doing Joe Ely’s “All Just to Get to You,” and making the original recede in memory. The Congress sounds like shit, unless you stand in the back under the balcony, but it had the right ramshackle fin-de-siecle feel for the proceedings. The Negress loves the Truckers unconditionally and thinks the songs about the frayed seaminess of the “New” South capture a sense of place and time like few others. As for Dawes, color this colored unimpressed. Everything felt watery and mellow in a way that makes you wish that the worst Chicago winter would descend on everyone you hate who lives in tropical climes and you have all the windshield scrapers and shovels. The Negress is sorry she’s been gone so long. It won’t happen again. Next up musically: Lez Zeppelin (March 9) and Rodrigo y Gabriela (April 12).