Full disclosure: Until about 16 or so years ago, my knowledge of anything known as a mimosa was a novelty herb-like woody plant known also as the sensitive plant — Mimosa pudica. When barely touched, the leaves would fold, making it a novel houseplant for people to play with. My initiation to the mimosa drink — orange juice and Champagne in equal measures — was on a trip to the west coast on Amtrak's Empire Builder, when the conductor offered my wife and me a mimosa as a refresher prior to dinner. We said yes, enjoying every sip.
In a recent survey of the wines in my cellar, I found a preponderance of malbec. Why? The reason for me is something I call 'wine security'. This is the equivalent of what our grandparents referred to as financial security back in the days when people were taking their money out of banks and putting it under their mattresses. What makes malbec unique to all the wonderful other red wines that are offered — the pinot noirs, zinfandels, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs and merlots?
Our daughter, Amanda, very thoughtfully gave us a wine and chocolate gift for our 40th wedding anniversary, which was appreciated and totally enjoyed. Such a combination would be a hit for your Valentine as well, but being a retired horticulturist, adding flowers would make your romantic intentions crystal clear. The next question then is, which wine and chocolate would go with the flowers?
My career in horticulture and my interest in wine run on parallel tracks. Good horticultural practices can lead to a healthier environment and that leads to the occupiers of the environment living a healthier life. The same can be said of moderate red wine production — or at least it has been circumstantially shown that those quaffing a glass or two on a daily basis, along with other healthy life habits, may live a longer, healthier life by lowering risk of heart attacks, dementia and strokes.
With a good eights weeks left of cold weather facing us in the upper Midwest, my thoughts turn to everything warm, or better yet, hot. I have praised Irish coffee as one of my favorites in past columns and still do. There are, of course, many other drinks with high appeal that are not combined with coffee that can be used to 'heat' your heart and soul up during these cold dreary nights. The ultimate simplicity in drinks of this nature would be to combine a strong, zesty red wine like zinfandel, Barolo, barbaresco, or Madeira with spicy, caffeine-free tea.
Barbaresco and Barolo are Denominazone di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines, which means the government guarantees the wines' origins. Both of these wines are capable of long aging and amazing complexity. Originating in the Piemonte (Italian for Piedmont) region of northwest Italy, nebbiolo is finicky about where it will grow and ripen with any degree of dependability. While the movie "Sideways" got the pinot noir grape the spotlight as far as being the world's most finicky grape to grow successfully, the nebbiolo grape has to be a close second.
This time of winter can be discouraging with all the cold temps, snow, and knowing spring is a long way off. We are at the stage of winter tolerance where our bodies have acclimated to the cold by now, but our attitude needs a little adjusting. While poets fantasize about winter being the time to dream, we, being the more practical type, want something tangible to put our hands on. I offer some delightful wines that lift spirits with each sip; frizzante wines.
One of the many factors that separate my generation from the millennials is my love for good books — the kind you can hold in your hand, turn pages in and mark up as desired. There is absolutely no shortage of good books on the science and art of wine growing and making — more than one could read in a lifetime. Some are very specific, like "Terroir and Other Myths of Wine Growing " by Mark A. Matthews, or broad in scope like "WineWise — Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine"by Kolpan, Smith, & Weiss.
Where did religion and wine start? Likely with the ancient Egyptians. Then it moved on to the Greeks who made Dionysus god of the grape harvest and wine-making, to the Romans, who built upon Greek knowledge, expanding viniculture across their conquered and occupied world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, viniculture was preserved by priests of the Catholic Church to use in their Sacramental services. Then the "little Ice Age" (1500 -1850) hit the world and vastly limited the growing of all agricultural crops, including wine grapes.
My wife and I took a Bordeaux wine country Viking River cruise two years ago, during the Thanksgiving period and into the month of December. The weather was nippy, with occasional light rain. Because the cruise was in Bordeaux and specifically targeted for winery visitations and the enjoyment of literally endless wines to drink, we had more to sample than we can accurately recall — with one exception: the warm fruity wines they gave us on our return from touring. Every one of those hit the spot.