Jun 3, 2009

Some Musings Over a Cabernet

It's great to be back in the US. The scent of newly cut grass, long afternoons capped by a Napa table red, some home baked crackers (rosemary, parmesan and oregano, crusted with sea salt), a selection of reasonably priced cheese, and home canned heirloom tomatoes (courtesy of my Tuscany-loving friend).

Not that you can't have these in Tokyo (well, except for newly cut grass, since my compatriots thought it necessary to cement over every open patch of land), but it would have been more a grand affair than a pleasant afternoon at home, not to mention, far less affordable. And the scent of woodlands with actual songbirds all around would be hard to replicate.

After considerable thought (and unquaffable Japanese wine), I've decided to submit to the immutable and wiser laws of winemaking, and go to where the grapes grow best. We are debating if that is southern France, Tuscany, or some undiscovered part of Eastern Europe bordering the Adriatic Sea. (Australia and So. America are on the list as well, but we are draw to the lifestyle in Europe that has been cultivated over centuries of slow and decadent decline.)

One of the silver linings of this great credit crisis, and now multi-year economic malaise a la Japan, is that the first growths of Bordeaux and Napa are slashing their prices, some by almost 50%. It is not a bad time to be researching the best.

On the Oregon Trail

Apologies for the long, long absence. Work, intermittent family crisis, etc. Well - back to wines, my favorite subject.

I have been reading up these long weeks on the wine business, in an effort to see if it is actually doable. There are businesses, like Crushpad or City Winery, which allow you to make your own wines, with all of the logistics - from getting the grapes, bottling, etc. - taken care of by the business. It does sound like a good way to start if you are a city dweller, but if you are in search of the Good Life, it's like drinking a bottle of Barolo in Tokyo to try to relive Tuscany. Not the same thing.

Then there is the idea of wholesale moving to southern Europe, to find a small patch of dirt, preferably with a ruin to renovate, and eke out a vineyard from which to grow grapes. (This, btw, is the premise of A Vineyard in Tuscany, which I had the pleasure of reading last weekend.) Not only is that a time sink, but you need a small fortune to back you up for the 5-10 yrs that you won't make a dime.

Still, this Armchair Vintner is enjoying her research into the wide world of winemaking.

On the business: This BBG article on a billionaire who is buying third and fourth growth wineries in France is interesting. The idea of making award winning wines without a vineyard or winery is also possible, as this American discovered in Portugal. I am also reading up on the Mondavi chronicles - The House of Mondavi, and Robert Mondavi's autobiography, Harvests of Joy.

On traveling: Oregon has some lovely wineries to bike through, as well as forests lined with chanterelle mushrooms. Not exactly Provence with truffles, but lovely nevertheless.

On Tuscany: I've never heard of the Antorini family, but apparently they are the oldest winemaking family business.