On September 2014

September is named after Demeter, the Greek goddess of harvest

In the Roman calendar, September was the seventh month because in Latin, septem means “seven” and septimus means “seventh”

September is a month of an equinox, thus the change of season from summer to autumn in the northern hemisphere, and from winter to spring in the southern hemisphere

No other month ends on the same day of the week as September in any year

September begins on the same day of the week as December every year

One of four months with a length of 30 days

My favorite poem is the one that starts Thirty days hath September because it actually tells you something. (Groucho Marx, actor & comedian)

September was called “harvest month” in Charlemagne’s calendar, Gerstmonath (barley month) by Anglo-Saxons, and Herbstmonat (harvest month) by Swiss

September births are celebrated with forget-me-not, morning glory, and aster (birth flowers) and sapphire (birthstone)

September astrological signs are Virgo (until September 21) and Libra (from September 22 onward)

Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
– William Wordsworth, September

Woody Allen directed a movie called September (1987), a movie starring Mia Farrow, Elaine Strich and Jack Warden

If a guy hits .300 every year, what does he have to look forward to I always tried to stay around .190, with three or four RBI. And I tried to get them all in September. That way I always had something to talk about during the winter. (Bob Uecker, Baseball icon )

September is the month for increasing awareness in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, atrial fibrillation, baby safety, pediatric cancer, gynecological cancer, leukemia & lymphoma, mold, campus safety, head lice prevention, infant mortality, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, skin care, Alzheimer’s, sickle cell anemia, platelet disorder, food allergies, and childhood obesity.

September is the month for enjoying these culinary delights: California wild rice, ice cream sandwiches, chicken, low cholesterol-low fat pizza, honey, mushroom, prime beef, papaya, whole grains, ice cream milk shakes, rice, ethnic foods, apples, biscuits, potatoes, fruits & vegetables, and the All-American breakfast.

September is increasing self-awareness by participating in or promoting strategic thinking, wilderness activities, baby safety, square dancing, backpack safety, good manners in children, eating chicken, sports & home eye safety, updating your resume, food safety, better breakfasts, signing up for a library card, and pleasuring your mate.

September is the month for embracing animals by celebrating save the koala, service/guide dogs, save the tiger, responsible dog ownership, healthy happy cats, and pet memorials/animal remembrance

September is the month for recognizing bourbon heritage, California wines, saving for college, people skills, fall hats, osteopathic medicine, women friendships, subliminal communications, Hispanic heritage, home furnishings, and pianos.

September is the month for promoting cholesterol education, hunger action, million minute family challenge, coupons, DNA genomic & stem cell education, sewing, self-improvement, prospering where you are planted, healthy aging, superior relationships, being prepared, and shameless promotion.

October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February. (Mark Twain, humorist)

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.”
– John Updike, September

I still have the Pause button set, but will return soon – so, this song is a fitting to end this post. Did you take in any of the songs?

On Fine Wines in America: Abridged

This is an abridged version of a story because they were many more events than these.

As this previous post establishes, Prohibition (1917-1933) decimated the American wine industry. Gallo produced jug and fortified wines to fit the market needs, but popularizing fine wines was still decades away.

In the 1940s, Cesare Mondavi sold grapes, and later in the decade became a partner in two wineries. Interestingly, each son (Peter and Robert) got their exposure here.

In 1943, Cesare purchased the well-known Krug winery. With Peter as the winemaker, and Robert focusing on marketing, they produced two labels: CK Mondavi (for quantity) and Krug (for quality).

Cesare died in 1959, so his wife ran the company. They struggled, the brothers argued, and she chose Peter to lead a revival in 1965 – leaving Robert to be on his own.

Robert’s became enamored with fine wines on a 1962 trip to Europe, thus he was now free to pursue his dream of making fine wine in America. In his quest to find start-up money, his public relations skills helped find supportive winemakers. His first harvest came in 1966. The winery’s tasting room drew tourists, and his brand became known. By the 1970s, Mondavi was leading the wine revolution in America – but it was still a country of inexpensive, jug wines.

The story changes direction in 1975 when Stephen Spurrier (a British sommelier and wine shop owner in Paris) visits Napa Valley for the first time. The region was far from what we find today nonetheless, American wines caught Spurrier’s attention.

Upon returning to Paris, he organized a blind tasting competition featuring American and French wines a year later. Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (1973) and Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (1973) won, thus beating the notable wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. (Ever see the movie Bottle Shock?)

The world finally recognized that fine wines were in America, and the dreams of Thomas Jefferson and Nicholas Longworth came to be. Americans also took notice over time. In 2006 (30 years later) Spurrier hosted another competition, and American wines won.

Today, all 50 states have wineries. California still leads the way, but quality wines are also in Oregon and Washington – plus New York and Virginia in the east. Ironically, one of the wine regions is near Thomas Jefferson’s home.

Jug wines remain popular, and Gallo (with its 60+ labels) is one of the largest wine producers in the world – and its stable now includes quality wines. Robert Mondavi died in 2008 at age 94, but sold his winery to Constellation Brands in 2004.

According to the Wine Institute, the United States is sixth in the world in grape acreage, fourth in production, and is the largest global consumer of wine. As a wine lover, thank you Robert Mondavi for being a believer and tireless promoter of quality wine – and for leading the charge.

Enjoy this interesting, quality tribute to Robert Mondavi.

Other Posts in the Wine in America Series
The Start
Temperance and Wine
Revival: Gallo Style

On Not-So Petite

Petite sirah is a wine. Although some may spell it as petite syrah, it is not syrah. Nor is it the reference when Doris Day sings Queue sera sera.

Petite sirah is the wine for the people loving a big wine – one delivering a full flavor – one capable of handling a sturdy set of characteristics as big, bold, tannin, and earth within its dark color.

The only thing petite about petite sirah wines is the size of the individual grapes. Compared to other varietals, it is smaller, yet it is this high skin to juice ratio that delivers the big taste that some wine lovers desire. Although petite sirah as not the same as its namesake, syrah is one of the parents that growers crossed to develop this varietal.

Although it is found in other regions across the globe, petite sirah is more commonly grown in the US, France, and Australia. The grape, actually called durif, allows winemakers to transform this grape into a dark, firm wine delivering big flavors of black fruits, black pepper, and tannin with a tendency toward earth and game.

Its California roots date back to the late 1800s and a history centered on making bulk wines. In the United States, petite sirah is most commonly found in California, primarily Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Monterrey wine regions. Keep in mind that in terms of acreage, petite sirah occupies only 1.6% of California vineyards, thus a reason why one may not notice many bottles on the store shelves.

On the other hand, winemakers have successfully blended petite sirah with other grapes to add color, zest, and complexity. Ridge winery creates glee across my palate with the addition of petite sirah to some of their zinfandel-based blends.

I appreciate petite sirah, but I have to know my audience before offering them a glass. A good friend of mine loves big wines and feels that winemakers have transformed too many red wines into juicy, fresh fruit flavors. Needless to say, he loves petite sirah.

Here are some of my petite sirah recommendations.
Starters ($9-12): Foppiano, Bogle, Castle Rock, Concannon, Lot 205

A Step Up ($16-20): Foppiano, Lava Cap, Marietta, David Bruce, McNab Ridge

If you are ever in Paso Robles, CA and wanting to taste version with more fruit, less tannin, yet keeping the distinct petite sirah flavor, stop by the Pianetta tasting room and tell Caitlin that Frank from Cincinnati sent you to try the petite sirah. (She may remember us) Then ask to sample Tuscan Nights. Yum! Did you get that Debra?

A short overview about petite sirah by a winemaker

On Zin Zazee Doo Dah

By the mid 1900s, zinfandel was undoubtedly my favorite wine type. At the time, my palate was good at identifying flavors so, I know that the combination of full body, fruit, and spice is what I enjoyed the most about zin. Sometime in the last 90s, winemakers began favoring zins with higher alcohol, which actually caused by to venture into other varietals and regions – yet, while keeping zins close to my heart.

Zinfandel is a dark grape with its heritage in Croatia. Yes, in 2001 scientists discovered zin is genetically the same a Croatian grape. The first documented sighting of zin in the US was in the early 1800s (Boston), but the Gold Rush served as the mechanism to move the vines westward.

For a long time, California winemakers commonly used zin for general table/bulk wines, thus not much on its own. Although zin lovers generally dislike white zin with a passion, we recognize that white zinfandel’s popularity may have saved this grape in California.

I think of zinfandel as America’s wine. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay may be more popular; one can commonly find these two are commonly in other wine regions throughout the world – but not zinfandel.

Although zin grows in most of California’s major wine regions as Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles (Central Coast), Mendocino, Amador, and Lodi, each region delivers its own unique flavors. For fresh black cherry fruit and pepper, I love the zins from one of my favorite places to visit – the Dry Creek region of Sonoma. Then again, Amador County zins give me a rich flavor or jam and raisins that I adore – which happens to correlate to make affection for port. For value, old vines zins from Lodi are very respectful, thus worth a try.

Zinfandel is a hearty, flavorful red wine that is great with grilled meats and red-sauced pastas. Some of my favorite $10-13 bottles include Ravenswood, Cline, Rosenblum Cuvee (followed by a Roman numeral as XXXIII), and Dancing Bull Winemaker’s Reserve. Marietta makes a delightful zin-based blend that they designate by a Lot number on the label. I even like Plungerhead; and yes, the Kirkland Old Vine Zin (Costco) is a great value!

Take the price up a notch, you can find very good zins from not from those previously list, but also Seghesio, Ridge, Opolo, Sausal, Redwood, Four Vines, Peachy Canyon, Storybook Mountain, Turley, A. Rafanelli, and many others from the previously-mentioned regions. Here’s a list from ZAP.

I am a more daring wine buyer than most – meaning I am not scared to buy something to try. I recommend this because this will help any wine drinker to discover the taste they most enjoy at the price they are willing to pay. A wine distributor recently said the following to me:

Although it is important to like the wine you drink and to drink the wine you like, it is also important to keep an open mind to other fruits from the vine.

Well, that is how I discovered Primitivo from southern Italy, which also happens to be a clone from the same Croatian grape as zinfandel.

Cheers – Zin is wonderful – but also enjoy this short video from the Paso Robles (CA) wine region