Posts Tagged 'valentines day'

Valentine’s Day Wine Tasting

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Call your grandmother.

To help you pick a bottle to celebrate your loved ones today, I had a wine tasting this weekend.  Experimental Setup:  About a dozen people, five bottles of wine (to taste- there were some warm-ups), in my apartment, with a wine aroma guide to help us narrow down the smells and tastes.   I’ve managed to find most of the tasting notes my wonderful tasters left behind, and I’ve compiled them (at least the printable ones- descriptions got a bit creative) for you.

These were the wines.  Four of them are made from organic grapes, and the Bus Stop White is certified Fair Trade.  I got the Bonterra Syrah and Orleans Hill Cote Zero (no idea what grape combo that is- bottle has no clues) at the Harris Teeter near Foxchase.  They had a decent selection of organic wine, but hidden in with the normal wines, so you have to hunt.  The Vida Organica and Fairhills came from Whole Foods in Old Town.  The Badger Mountain is from a Trader Joe’s.  None of the bottles cost more than $16, and most were under $10.

In the order we tasted, then:

FairHills Bus Stop White, 2009.  Fair Trade Certified.  Like “getting punched in the face by a grapefruit”.  Lots of citrus fruits, and some people mentioned notes of grass and haystraw.  Best for sipping on a warmer day on a sunnier porch.  I can never think of anything to pair these citrusy whites with myself, but one taster suggested food in cream sauces.

Badger Mountain Chardonnay, 2008.  Organic Vineyard. Smelled of “crazybutter” (yes one word) with some sort of nut undertones (someone said cashews, but I’m pretty sure they were joking).  Nice creamy finish on the taste.  I think drinking it with a meal would pull out some other nice flavors, and it would pair well with spicy foods.

A note on the reds:  I should have let them breathe more.  All three were strong and spicy, and a few minutes of air or decanting would have mellowed them and brought out more flavors.  Note-taking had also, totally understandably, lost its novelty by this point in the evening.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2008.  Organic.  Smelled strongly of alcohol, with various bits of cloves, pepper, tobacco, and raspberries (“like eating a cigarette while snorting a raspberry”).  Would go pretty well with a pizza or other garlic-y tomato-y things.

Bonterra Syrah, 2005.  Organically grown grapes.  We got lots of prunes, raisins, plums, and a bit of pepper here.  The finish was dry.  Seemed like a serious red for a meal of meats.

Vida Organica Malbec, 2009.  Organic grapes.  This is one of my favorites, but it divided the tasting community (at least the ones still paying attention).  Several of us who tend to like malbecs liked it, and others found it completely unappetizing.  More time to breathe would have helped, but we smelled lots of alcohol initially, and some noted green tea taste on the ending- a little dryness.  After plenty of swirling, the raspberry and other dark berry flavors came out, plus the spice on the finish.  The pro-malbec contingent advises you to pair it with anything delicious, since we remember it being really great, but we weren’t really getting very specific at that juncture.

Voila.  Hope it helps!  Have a great Valentine’s Day!

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Organic Wine and Chocolate Tasting

These notes are compiled over several evenings of eating.  V and a great friend (she comments as “hater”, because she is very sweet) helped me out with the tastings- no, mom, I did not drink four bottles of wine myself this week, it’s cool.  Here is:

Wines

Red Truck Petite Syrah, 2006 (CA, $10.99) at Whole Foods)- Spicy and fruity, nicely drinkable on it’s own.

Yellow and Blue Malbec Mendoza, 2007 (Argentina, 11.99 for a liter at Whole Foods, as opposed to normal 750ml bottle)- Fairly typical red wine. Clean berryish flavor, but nothing too exciting.  Better with food. Comes in a Tetra Pack.

Natura Carmenere, 2007 (Chile, $10ish at Shoppers in Potomac Yard)- Dark and deep and Plummy, and spicy at the end.  “Unassuming”, according to my second tasting partner- it’s not overtly fancy, but it is quality.  “Would probably go well with chocolate…oh wait…” she continued.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2007 (CA, $10ish at Shopper in Potomac Yard)- Blegh.  Unsatisfying mouthful, sharp aftertaste.  Perhaps this bottle has been skunked already?  But it doesn’t taste musty or completely wrong, just sour.  Suitable for mulling, perhaps.

Of those, the Natura Carmenere is the classiest, and the Red Truck was the spiciest.  Off the top of my head, the Vida Organica Malbec at Whole Foods is pretty good, and the Rabbit something Cabernet Sauvignon in a Tetra Pack at MOM’s on Mt. Vernon is quite solid.

Chocolate

Divine 70% Dark (Fair Trade): Very creamy with a slightly chocolate powder finish.  Brings out the cherry flavor in the Natura Camenere.  Definitely our favorite.

Green and Black’s 70% Dark (organic) : Slightly oily, bitter.  It’s not bad, per say.  Maybe we shouldn’t have had the one we really liked first.

Equal Exchange 71% Dark (Fair Trade and Organic AND Kosher)- Unannounced raspberryesque taste.  I would have appreciated it if I had been expecting it.  Without a warning, it was disturbing.  Slightly oily, powdery finish.

Whole Food 365 Brand Organic- Tasted a lot like the Equal Exchange, but creamier and sweet, with a little, entirely pleasing raspberry at the end, wand less oil in the finish.  So, like the EE, but a lot better.  Top 3, depending on how you like surprise raspberry.

Vivani 72% Dark (Organic)-  Good.  Very balanced.  Not exquisite.  Top 3, though.

If you’d like some other V-day advice, try the post I wrote last year– I re-read it, and I still heartily agree with it.

Much Love, call your grandma, and have a great weekend!

A New Addition

Last night, the Gentleman Friend and I began a taste-test of organic wines and chocolates.  Difficult work, true, but next week I’ll post our impressions and recommendations, to make your Valentine’s Day picks easier.  

As if that weren’t exciting enough enough, the Gentleman Friend was convinced to sign up as a contributor here after a bottle of Red Truck.  Now we can switch his clunky euphemistic title to his handle Vaialos, and he can tell you for himself how he really feels about my composter.  Welcome, V!

How was your Valentine’s Day?

Mine was pretty good, thanks! The Gentleman Friend and I decided to do our celebrating tomorrow- we’re cooking together.  A movie may or may not be involved. Tonight, I can get ready for my construction site inspection (architecture school field trips are sweet) and munch on the loaf of bread the GF baked me earlier this week.

In honor of both the GF and the day, here’s an article on the more sustainable flower farms in Colombia (his country of extraction, more or less). They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day so much- instead, Feb 14th is the “International Day of Flower Workers”, since about 100,000 Colombians grow about a billion dollars worth of flowers for export every year. A new program called “Floraverde” is providing these flower farms with a chance to certify themselves in social standards for their workers and environmental standards for their growing operation- and it’s catching on. They’re still working on the whole right to organize labor thing, but over 40% of their farms are now certified with the program since 2003, or are in the process of certification.

I’m excited about the Valentine’s Day when my Gentleman Friend can buy me flowers and know that he’s buying a product that wasn’t grown with dangerous chemical pesticides, and wasn’t transported long distances to him by dirty fuels, and the proceeds of which purchase go back to be invested with the people who produced them in the first place, to help grow everybody’s economy. For now, I’m happier without them. Well, ok, sometimes they do help when he’s got some explaining to do, but still.

Let me know how sustainably yours went!

The Vicinity of My Head

From recently inside my head, two quick follow-ups, then a review of external bits:

First, still on the fence about buying into Valentine’s day? Reuter’s has a dampening article on the child labor and human trafficking that go into producing much of the world’s cocoa, harsh chemicals dumped on roses and inhaled by farm workers, and those crazy war diamonds. Get off the fence and try something else! If the dear heart’s heart is set on chocolate, check out fair trade chocolate options. (My head? It is now salivating.)

Second, Mike Bloomberg is chastising the US government for promoting corn ethanol as a viable fuel. Sure, it’s interesting because I talked about it yesterday (sensing a pattern in this post?), but Bloomberg has also been flirting with running for president this year. Fred Thompson has already shown us the pitfalls of merely flirting with the idea, though, and the rash (yes, rash) of interesting primary action will probably make late entries into the race less interesting by comparison. But the loud green mayor of NY seems to want to make his voice heard on the national stage, and if he’s got a message like this, let’s hear some more.

Finally, let us turn our heads to my shampoo (masculine types are dismissed, unless they’re looking for tips on how to smell not so, well, dude-like).

avalon organics shampooI’ve been trying out a few ecofriendly shampoos, and it’s been a rough process. Literally. Whole Foods brand grapefruit shampoo and conditioner left my hair feeling unwashed and unconditioned. Plus, they smell sickly-sweet. Avalon Organics has a Lavender shampoo and conditioner that smell good- like real lavender, not the fake lavender scent. Their shampoo takes a lot of work to lather (it’s not my water’s fault) and their conditioner, while promising to nourish, leaves my hair brittle even when I let it sit a while. If you like the smell, the lack of animal testing, and the “100% vegetarian ingredients”, give the shampoo a try and avoid the conditioner- though the latter might work better for you if your hair is short or oily.

trader joes conditionerReally, though, you can skip the other two brands altogether and check out Trader Joe’s store brand. Their conditioner actually conditions– and I’ve got long, curly, slightly dry hair, so that’s a tough proposition. It’s $2 a bottle, smells fantastic, wasn’t tested on animals, and it’s got mostly organic ingredients. It does contain a couple parabens, which haven’t been proven to cause breast cancer in anything. Natural health people add an ominous “yet” to that statement. Avalon Organics consciously avoids them, but hey: Avalon Organics hasn’t produced a working conditioner yet, so. I’ll keep testing. (If you can’t wait for me to come up with another suggestion, try the comments at Green as a Thistle‘s similar post.)

One Week to Valentin- whaaat?!

I can already feel the swell of righteous anger- I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is a dreadful prospect for everyone involved. You’re either under pressure to come up with something really special- flowers! roses! diamonds! dinner reservations! all of the above!- for your snuggly-pumpkin, or scared and wondering if your snookie-poo is coming to come through with something really special for you, or if you haven’t got a cuddle-woogums then, well, you’re cranky. About this time of year, I start hearing the anti-establishment rants from males of my aquaintance- Valentine’s Day is created by advertisers to convince women that we have to buy them things and then they get mad at us when we don’t and everything’s pink and those candy hearts are gross and I hate it and etc.

They’re right, except for the candy hearts thing. Apparently the greeting card industry has an award named for the lady who invented the Valentine’s day card. And now they’re capitalizing on haters by selling Anti-Valentine’s day cards! Genius!

Plus, all this shiny red waste. Big packages for little waxy chocolates, plastic wrap, cheaply-made toys, forests of obnoxious cards, tons and tons of dying flowers shipped all over at exorbitant prices…and all the hippies crying green ecotears. Why are we making love so unsustainable?

Some go so far as to declare their non-participation in this non-event: I will not bow to the follies of popular culture, I above the red and pink pressures. Works perfectly if you’re single, but you try explaining to your wimbly-bipple that you’re not going to be extra-sweet to him/her/it for one little day just because somebody had the gall to suggest that you do so. (Here’s a helpful tip: this will always go poorly for you. If it doesn’t go poorly for you, dump him/her/it and look for someone with a backbone.)

Me, I like Valentine’s Day. I’m looking forward to it. I think you’d like Valentine’s Day, too, if we made a few rules for it. Here’s my proposal:

1 ) No gross, over-processed red and pink-wrapped chocolates/candies. “Gift Food” is not a gift, nor is it food. Try making something actually tasty.

2 ) No stuffed animals (ok, unless it’s your best friend from forever and you compete to see who can come up with the most ridiculous one even though she always wins, even the year you found the purple snake with heart spots, because of that one vibrating pink lion…).

3 ) No store-bought cards. “I Love You” doesn’t count if it was written by a committee, mass produced, and purchased. (Try making a pop-up card. Fun, and demonstrative, and just think of all the things you can…never mind.)

4 ) Both halves of the couple must plan nice things for their hunnie-muffins.

5 ) If you do buy jewelry, don’t symbolize your love with a product of bloodshed, underpaid sweat, and intestinal delivery. Go vintage, or fair-trade, or lab-grown, or recycled, or at least certified. And similarly with flowers- why are you killing so many pretty things to tell her she’s pretty? Get her a live plant if you can (let her kill it). But really,

6 ) You don’t need to spend money at all. This is about love, and celebrating strong relationships, and taking the time to appreciate having your puddle-widgkins. So do that in a way that’s just for the two of you, and not for Hallmark/Godiva/DeBeer’s, also. Two’s company, three’s just wrong.

7 ) Call your parents and grandparents.

8 ) If you haven’t found your ookle-dumpling yet, see 7). Then don’t take it so personally (statistically you’ll find your mumbly-cupcake someday, and it’s not like angst makes you more attractive, unless you’re one of those people), take a deep breath, and go hang out with cool people and do fun things.

What do you think? A dash of anti-consumerism, a pinch of anti-advertisements, and a shot of self-confidence makes Valentine’s more sustainable, and maybe even bearable.


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