"Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven." - Edward De Bono
D.C. Now Bigger Than Vermont, Less Car-Dependent, No More Represented in Congress
Posted by Aaron Wiener on Dec. 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Suck it, Buck!
Washingtonians, rejoice: In our dream world in which the District is a state, it is now only the third-smallest state!
According to new census figures, D.C. gained 13,303 people between July 2011 and July 2012 to reach a population of 632,323, overtaking Vermont, which lost 581 people to drop to 626,011. Wyoming remained dead last at 576,412.
D.C. was also the second-fastest-growing "state" at 2.15 percent growth, trailing only North Dakota (2.17) and leaving third-place Texas (1.67) in the dust. The District had 9,156 births and 8,953 in-migrations in the past year.
The city's growth was accompanied by a continuing decrease in reliance on cars. The percentage of households with no vehicles increased from 36.9 percent to 38.5 percent.
One thing that didn't change: that whole taxation without representation thing. Though D.C.'s at least as entitled to a voting representative and two senators as Wyoming or Vermont, we're stuck with a single non-voting delegate—Joe Lieberman's efforts notwithstanding.
So I'll take this opportunity to call down a curse on puny but better-represented Vermont: May your treasured maple trees henceforth ooze nothing but mumbo sauce!
Matt Mendelsohn/IBIS Chamber Music - The IBIS Chamber Music Society consists of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and several other well-known chamber music groups.
On Sunday the IBIS Chamber Music Society opened a festival of rarely heard music at Arlington’s Rock Spring Congregational Church titled “Women’s Voices Through the Centuries.” The beautifully played eye-opener was the first of two concerts devoted to works by women composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. IBIS consists of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and several other well-known chamber music groups.
Audiences frequently ask me, “Is there any good women’s music?” and, “Where do we go to hear it?” Harpist Susan Robinson said Sunday, “This festival aims to highlight a few of the extensive stores of never-performed women’s compositions languishing on library shelves.”
The afternoon event highlighted some fascinating compositions in a first-class performance aided by the church’s perfect acoustics. Flutist Adria Sternstein Foster and Robinson opened with a finely wrought version of Stella Sung’s “Dance of the White Lotus under the Silver Moon,” a panoply of boldly contrasting colors and textures tinged with swirling Asian microtones. Robinson gave a ravishing solo account of Germaine Tailleferre’s “Sonate pour Harpe,” a mass of flurrying, insistent melodic motifs segueing into Latin rhythms and a breezy finale. Along with pianist Edward Newman, Daniel Foster offered Rebecca Clarke’s impressionistic Viola Sonata from 1919. Foster’s tone in the meditative Adagio was sumptuous, while both players charged through the other movements with gusto and tight ensemble.
The most striking piece was Jennifer Higdon’s Piano Trio (violinist Joseph Scheer, cellist Igor Zubkovsky and Newman), an essay in expressing colors in musical terms. The movement “Pale Yellow” seemed an overly anemic statement of neo-classicalism. But “Fiery Red” stormed furiously in a pounding toccata style. Scheer, Joel Fuller, Adria Foster, Daniel Foster and Zubkovsky closed with Amy Beach’s harmonically mellow “Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet,” a sonorous recall of Mendelssohn and other romantics laced with zestfully rendered fugues.
The second concert, titled “Wives, Sisters and Daughters,” will be held March 11 at 4 p.m. at the Rock Spring Congregational Church.
Porter is a freelance writer.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Thinking Inside the Box
By ERIC ASIMOV
IT’S the epitome of déclassé, the vinous equivalent of trailer trash, the wine snob’s worst nightmare. No, I don’t mean the screw cap. I’m talking about boxed wine.
Despite the almost reflexive elevation of noses at the mention of boxed wines, one significant detail undermines these smug dismissals: the idea of putting wine in a box, or more accurately, in a bag within a box, is brilliant. The packaging solves significant problems that have dogged wine for millennia, whether it was stored in urn, amphora, barrel, stone crock or bottle.
No matter how elegant or handy those containers may be, their fixed volumes permit air to enter when wine is removed. Air attacks and degrades wine, making it imperative to drink up what remains, usually within no more than a few days.
The bag-in-a-box, to use the unlovely industry term, resolves this problem of oxidation by eliminating space for air to occupy. Wine can stay fresh for weeks once it has been opened. But while the packaging may be ingenious, what’s inside has been a problem.
Quite simply, the quality of the boxed wines sold in this country has been uniformly bad. Those in the wine trade have tried to explain this sad fact by citing an entrenched public perception of boxed wines as wretched. What’s the point of putting better wines in boxes, they said, if people won’t buy them?
Even so, the logic of placing wine in a box is so compelling that sooner or later, some producers were going to take a chance that better wines would sell this way. I have had isolated examples in the last few years of just the sort of fresh, lively, juicy wines that thrive in the bag-in-a-box environment. Did this signal that overall quality was turning a corner?
To answer the question, the wine panel recently tasted 20 wines from three-liter boxes. We tasted 12 reds and 8 whites, without regard to price or provenance. The only guideline for our tasting coordinator, Bernard Kirsch, was to seek out producers who were striving for quality. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Colin Alevras, the service manager at the Dutch, and Alexander LaPratt, the sommelier at db Bistro Moderne.
Let me backtrack for a moment. To say that consumers have rejected boxes is not strictly accurate. At the lowest echelon of quality, the realm of domestic burgundies and rhine wines, a great deal of boxed wine is sold. These boxes, largely in five-liter sizes, the equivalent of 6.67 bottles, which might sell for as little as $12, did especially well just after the economic meltdown, said Danny Brager of the Nielsen Company, which tracks sales.
But sales are relatively flat now. The biggest growth in boxed wines, Mr. Brager said, was in the three-liter, higher-priced category: that is, $20 or more. Sales last year were up 19 percent, he said, and this year through June they are up 16 percent.
So let’s get to the crucial question: How were the wines?
Without a doubt, the choices are far superior to what was available five years ago. Among the wines we liked best, we found more than a few that we’d be happy to serve as a house pour, especially among the reds. We liked the boxes brought in by two small importers who specialize in French wines: the Wineberry Boxes from Wineberry America, and From the Tank from Jenny & François Selections, who focus on natural wines.
Jenny Lefcourt of Jenny & François became a fan of boxed wines while living in France for 10 years. “I always thought it was a fantastic way of serving and conserving wine,” she said. “I didn’t see any disadvantages to it, except that people still have a negative image of them in the U.S.”
Since the From the Tank wines, one white and one red, were introduced in 2008, she said, they have taken off nationally. “I’m pretty bowled over by the success of it,” she said. “We were cautious at first, but we just kept selling out.”
Wineberry began with its boxes two years ago, and now sells three reds, two whites and a rosé. The Wineberry boxes are unusual in that they are made of wood rather than cardboard, which gives them heft, solidity and a certain personality the cardboard boxes lack.
“We live in the most sophisticated area in the world,” said Eric Dubourg, the founder of Wineberry, which is based in New York. “People care about what things look like. Still, the quality of the wine is the main point.”
True enough, and Wineberry’s 2010 Côtes-du-Rhône from Domaine le Garrigon was our clear favorite, with its fresh red fruit and mineral flavors. A juicy, pleasurable wine, it would be good for gulping uncritically but offers enough interest to satisfy people who care about what they are consuming.
We also liked the From the Tank red, a 2009 Côtes-du-Rhône from Estézargues, a very good cooperative. This, too, was fresh and lively, though perhaps a little more straightforward than the Garrigon. Still, these were exactly the sort of pleasing wines we were hoping to find, and reasonably priced. Both were under $40 a box, the equivalent of less than $10 a bottle, and excellent values, in fact, compared with most $10 bottles.
The boxed whites on the whole were less attractive. Too many were flat, lacked vivacity and seemed muted aromatically. We liked our top white well enough, the 2010 Torre del Falasco from Cantina Valpantena in the Veneto region of Italy. It was made of the garganega grape, the main grape in Soave, but for one reason or another didn’t qualify to be called Soave. Nonetheless, it was lively, with the nutlike quality that I often find in Soave and a fine value at $27.
Our next white, a 2010 New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Black Box, struck none of us as sauvignon blanc in the blind tasting. This was odd, as sauvignon blanc is generally one of the easier grapes to identify. But this wine, while fresh and tangy, lacked any sauvignon blanc character. We liked it enough to make it our No. 6 wine. We also liked the 2010 Picpoul de Pinet from La Petite Frog in the Languedoc, in southern France, a very pleasant summer drinker.
Even though two more whites made our Top 10, we all thought they could have been better. It occurred to me that while box packaging solves a problem once the wines are opened, it perhaps creates one before they are opened.
Unopened boxed wines have a shorter shelf life. The box and bag are more porous to air than an unopened bottle, so they must be consumed relatively young. What’s more, because they are so inexpensive, they may not be handled or stored with great care. Heat and vibration can be hard on whites in particular, which is one possible reason the whites didn’t perform as well as the reds.
I said these wines were cheap, but we indeed had one outlier. It was our No. 3, Dominio IV’s Love Lies Bleeding, a 2009 pinot noir from the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It cost $90, almost twice as much as the next most expensive box on the list, Wineberry’s 2010 Bourgogne Blanc from Baronne du Chatelard, which was $48. What accounts for this disparity?
For one thing, grapes from the Dundee Hills aren’t cheap, and neither is aging the wine in oak barrels, 30 percent new, said Patrick Reuter, the winemaker.
The wine was fresh and deep, very ripe and a bit oaky but clearly identifiable as good pinot noir. Mr. Reuter said the boxes had sold well to restaurants, which poured it by the glass. But consumers, he said, seemed to think that the high price required a more elegant vessel.
“I think I need to think out the packaging,” he said.
At the same time, he said, he has kept a box on the counter in his kitchen for months, and the wine is still good.
“I can’t believe how intact it’s stayed,” he said. “It’s the craziest thing.”
Domaine le Garrigon, $39, ***
From the Tank Côtes-du-Rhône, $37, ** ½
Dominio IV Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, $90, ** ½
Cantina Valpantena Veronese, $27, ** ½
Château Moulin de la Roquille, $39, ** ½
Black Box New Zealand, $22, ** ½
La Petite Frog Coteaux du Languedoc, $30, **
Baronne du Chatelard, $48, **
Würtz Rheinhessen Riesling, $27, **
Osborne Spain Seven Octavin NV, $20, **
# # # # # # #
August 1, 2011, 3:43 pmERIC ASIMOV
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
It’s taken a long time, but discerning American wine drinkers are slowly getting used to the idea of drinking wine from a box. No doubt, that is partly because the quality of boxed wines is improving, as the wine panel found.
Another reason is the rising popularity of kegged wines, which more and more restaurants are using to serve wines by the glass. Their acceptance, I think, has caused Americans to reconsider their reflexive distaste for alternative wine packaging.
The bag-in-a-box technology is uniquely suited to preserve wine once a package is opened. How does it work? A plastic bag, as big as five liters, is filled with wine. The bag is then placed within a cardboard box, which serves as a sort of exoskeleton protecting the bag. A plastic tap allows access to the wine within, through a hole in the box. As wine is poured through the tap, the process acts as a vacuum, sucking air out of the bag, which shrinks to encase the remaining wine. With no headroom for air to fill, the wine is well protected. Once opened, the wine lasts for weeks, rather than for a few days in a bottle.
The boxes have practical applications. They’re perfect for picnics or the pool or beach, providing that wine at the beach is legal. And, if your refrigerator can accommodate a box, you have wine available at a whim. If you just want a glass, or need a splash to deglaze a pan, you don’t have to open a bottle and worry about wasting the rest of it. They can be fun, too. I admit I get a kind of childish pleasure working the spigot, knowing I have if not an unlimited supply of wine, at least a lot of it available.
If the bag-in-a-box guards against air so well, why not put all wines in such containers? Simple. While the packaging prevents large amounts of air from attacking the wine, it is still relatively porous. Even when closed, air slowly penetrates the box and bag, at a much swifter pace than through a bottle and cork. For that reason, boxes are not appropriate for aging wines. It is also the reason that some boxes will have both a vintage date and an expiration date.
While the wine panel restricted its tasting to three-liter bag-in-a-box wines, another, very different category has caught on with consumers: Tetra Pak wines. These boxes, made of foil-lined paper like those used for juices and milk, are light and easy to carry but offer no protection against air once opened. A subject for future investigation.
When Dominick Cardella established the Artifactory on Indiana Avenue,
the neighborhood was blighted and nearly deserted. Forty years later, it’s a
very different place—and it soon will have no Artifactory.
By John Kelly, The Washington Post
Ignore the aroma of Starbucks wafting in from next door, ignore the shirt-sleeved cubicle drones ambling down the street in search of an early lunch, banish the general hubbub of Penn Quarter on a sunny spring day, and imagine what this corner — Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue NW, a block off Pennsylvania — was like 40 years ago.
“Blight,” says Dominick Cardella, who has lived at 641 Indiana Ave.
NW since 1972.
But what a location! “The Smithsonian museums in my front yard, the American Art Museum in my back yard,” Dominick says. “And I’m facing the most historic street in the nation.”
Before he bought the three-story, 19th-century building, he rented it — for $400 a month. “The entire building!” he laughs. “That just goes to show you how blighted this entire area was.”
Dominick grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Italian immigrants. He became an engineer specializing in water treatment plants. In 1971, he was in D.C. hoping to get a job with the Environmental Protection Agency when he realized his heart wasn’t really in it. There is nothing exotic about a water treatment plant.
And the exotic is what the kid from Brooklyn had always been drawn to: movies set in the rain forest, books about the jungle, artwork primitive and powerful.
A used furniture dealer he’d met named Warren Malkin said he’d rent Dominick the building. Built in 1817, it’s part of the oldest block of commercial buildings still standing from Pierre L’Enfant’s original design for the District. Dominick created a cold-water flat for himself on the top floor, then drove to New York City in his Chevy van and spent all the money he had — $4,500 — filling it with Third World artifacts. He opened the Artifactory, a gallery specializing in the exotic, mainly art from Africa.
The Artifactory looks now as it must have looked then. The wooden floor is rough and unfinished, seeming to settle in places under the weight of display cabinets. Dust motes fall through the slanting sunlight that pours in from the front windows. Everywhere is a profusion of stuff: masks, statues, trinkets, baubles . . . .
There’s a Berber wedding necklace made from disks of amber, house posts from Cameroon, a massive bronze statue depicting a Tikar king’s wife, dolls from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Some items are purely decorative, carved by the thousands to satisfy the tourist market. But some are authentic, once used in rituals and imbued, their creators believed, with a special energy.
“It’s all about the spirit world,” Dominick explains.
I ask whether anything he brought back on one of his yearly buying trips abroad ever gave him a bad vibe.
“Yes, I remember coming across something that for me was so powerful, I didn’t even want to take it out of its plastic sack,” he says. It was a wooden figure from the Republic of the Congo. Dominick sold it. Let its new owner deal with the juju.
After 40 years, Dominick is closing the Artifactory. “It’s just time,” he says. He’s holding on to the building — “I saved it from being torn down,” he says — but by autumn, the African art will be gone, and the first floor will be rented to a Middle Eastern restaurant.
Dominick says he misses the old neighborhood, bums and all. “I liked it, because we didn’t have the Starbucks. We didn’t have the Potbelly. We didn’t have the Au Bon Pain, the Cosi. Remember d.c. space?” he asks, mentioning a long-gone eclectic bar/performance spot a block up Seventh Street. “No way they could get a d.c. space now.”
A woman comes in. She collects cloisonne ginger jars. Dominick says he doesn’t have any, then remembers he has a small cloisonne snuff bottle and pulls it from a case. It isn’t what she’s looking for, but the tiny totem is an excuse to start talking about far-flung parts of the globe. Soon we’re in Marrakesh, then on a tiny tropical island off the coast of Colombia, then off to Morocco, then Peru . . . .
Workaday Washington seems very far away.
# # #
Since 1972, the Artifactory has been selling fine African and Asian art at affordable prices. Come and browse through a vast 40 year collection of masks and statuary, jewelry and beads, carpets and textiles, antique Moroccan doors, trunks and lanterns, baskets, and creative gift items.
50% OFF EVERYTHING
located in the heart of the Penn Quarter at 7th & Penn. Ave.
641 Indiana Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
metro stations: Nat’l. Archives/Navy Mem. (yellow or green lines)
or MCI Center (red line)
tele: 202 393-2727
hours: Mon. – Sat. (10-6)
Visit Bruges for Dominique Persoone's twist on the treat—with a hint of tobacco, wasabi or onions
When a supplier to the Rolling Stones invites you to try the contraption he invented to facilitate the inhaling of powdered stimulants up both nostrils, it's perhaps wise to hesitate.
photo of Dominique Persoone by Kris Vlegels
Thankfully, this is Belgium and Dominique Persoone's drug of choice is chocolate. In this case, he's pushing a finely ground dust of pure Dominican Republic cocoa cut with ginger and mint which his "chocolate shooter" catapults nose-ward to fill the brain with an explosion of phantom flavors.
Mr. Persoone is Belgium's most audacious chocolate maker, a self-styled "Shock-o-latier" who has shaken up the kingdom's delicious but tradition-bound world of pralines, cream-filled manons and cognac truffles, by stuffing bite-sized parcels of the finest chocolate with the likes of tobacco leaves, wasabi or fried onions.
"When you think about chocolate 20 years ago, it was a typical product for grandma's birthday. She already has everything, so what do you buy? A big box of chocolate," Mr. Persoone reflects. "I don't say those chocolates are bad, but the thing I'm very proud of is that I make some new creations, like the Coca-Cola one. My son is 11 years old and he loves it. It's a chocolate ganache with the flavor of cola. That's the first layer and the second layer is an almond praliné with sugar explosives so it's like when you drink Coca-Cola, you have the flavor and you have the fizz."
Mr. Persoone was born in Bruges in 1968. The medieval city on the damp polders of Flanders prides itself on its chocolate. It currently boasts more than 50 chocolatiers and its chocolate museum, which opened seven years ago, now draws more visitors that the city's renowned collections of Flemish art. Located in a 15th-century wine merchant's house, the Choco Story museum (www.choco-story.be) traces the history of chocolate from its origins as the sacred drink of the Mayas and Aztecs to Belgium's emergence as a cocoa-superpower after the Neuhaus family—Swiss immigrants in Brussels—confected the first chocolate-filled bonbons in the first years of the 20th century.
Chocolate paint sold at his shop, the Chocolate Line, in Bruges
Mr. Persoone, however, wasn't immediately smitten by choco-mania. Instead, he headed off to Paris to train as a chef and it was researching techniques for making the perfect pain-au-chocolat in a Parisian bakery that rekindled his interest in all things cocoa.
He returned to Bruges in 1992 and opened his shop, the Chocolate Line, in the leafy Simon Stevinplein square between the cathedral and the 13th-century bell tower.
Mr. Persoone dreamed up the chocolate shooter when the wives of Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts asked him to help prepare a surprise birthday party for their Rolling Stone husbands.
'Creole' pralines made with bitter ganache of espresso coffee
"They asked us to put some jokes into the menu, so one of the things we did was make a dessert with different structures of raspberry. Instead of putting chocolate on the dish, because they were the rock 'n' roll grandpas, we thought they should sniff the chocolate and to get a good result we designed a machine for that," he says. "We just made one for that party, but then everybody talked about it in the newspapers, so then we had to make it commercial because everybody was asking for it."
It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Persoone's creations as gimmicks that successfully lure a stream of tourists into his cosy little shop in the heart of historic Bruges. But behind his image as the world's wackiest chocolate maker since Willy Wonka, Mr. Persoone takes his chocolate very seriously. He collaborates with scientists to uncover new flavor combinations and uses only top quality natural ingredients, matching chocolate varieties sourced from around Latin America to complement his strange fillings.
Milk chocolate filled with bacon sounds scary. But Mr. Persoone subtly blends textures and flavors so the hints of salty, crispy fat complement the creamy chocolate. It's a similar story with his "Bollywood," which combines white chocolate with saffron and curry.
Dominique Persoone's second shop has opened in nearby Antwerp on the Paleis op de Meir
"Cauliflower really matches with the bitter chocolate of Ecuador; it took time to find that balance, but foodies love it. Or look at this green one," he says, picking up a shiny, bitter-chocolate emerald. "It's made from passion fruit, green lemons and vodka. I only use real products, juice from passion fruit, skin of lime, a little bit of vodka. It's so fresh, it's so fruity."
That dedication to quality has earned Mr. Persoone the respect of some of the world's superstar chefs. He is on first name terms with Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. René Redzepi of Copenhagen's Noma sent his pastry chef to pick up tips in the Bruges chocolate factory and Sergio Herman of the three-star Oud Sluis in the Netherlands treats female guests with a complementary sample of one of the chocolatier's signature creations: a bar of caramel ganache filled with Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and pine nuts.
"In the beginning, I was making classic chocolates, which I still make and still like very much, like pralinés, whipped cream, marzipans, all that stuff. But then I started using a little bit of my chef's influence on the chocolate. We made chocolate with cauliflower and chocolate with peas, chocolate with smoked salmon. In the beginning, everybody thought I was crazy...but little by little I got more respect from people who are into food. Then suddenly, I was one of the three chocolate makers who are in the Michelin Guide."
Says Mr. Herman: "Dominique comes up with ideas and flavor combinations that have never been done before. He is breaking all boundaries."
He got a tattoo on his right bicep proclaiming "chocolate is rock 'n' roll." Last year, Mr. Persoone opened a second store in Antwerp, taking over part of a former royal palace that once played host to Napoleon. In honor of the emperor, he makes a chocolate in the shape of his bicorne hat, filled with marzipan, cherry liquor and bitter banana cream.
As well as stretching the outer limits of the chocolate-maker's art, Mr. Persoone also embarked on a personal quest to discover the origins of the product which has become his passion. In 2008, he set out on a tour of Mexico in search of the original wild criollo cocoa beans that the Maya used to make their spiced drinks centuries before the arrival of Cortez.
Pralines are being prepared in the factory
His expedition led him to write "Cacao," a book that's part travelogue, part history of chocolate, part recipe guide. Published in four languages by Editions Francoise Blouard in Brussels, it was selected as 2009 chocolate book of the year in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. Mexico also inspired Mr. Persoone's popular "choc-tail," a thimble of lime-infused dark chocolate with a Maldon salt-encrusted rim that's served with a pipette of tequila.
The book's success has spawned a twice weekly show starring Mr. Persoone on Flemish television and a second trip to Latin America focused on Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica.
"In Europe, we learn there are three varieties of cocoa—criollo, forastero, trinitario—but I met a professor in São Paulo who told me that in the Amazon they've found already 24,000 different cocoa varieties," he says, emerging from a back room with a box of hand-grenade-sized pods from a plant closely related to cocoa harvested on his journey and a tray of his latest chocolate creation.
Classic Easter eggs
"For me this is the most exiting: theobroma grandiflorum. In Brazil they call it cupuaçu. I was so exited about it, I bought a ton of them. We were able to ferment, to dry, to roast it and we made a kind of chocolate with it. We can't call it officially chocolate, we had to find a new name for it: cupolade. It is very new, I just served it two days ago and it is the first time we use it like this in Europe. Inside I made a filling with the pulp...taste it, in the beginning it's quite caramel and then you have like wild mushroom and then acidity of the bananas, all the acidity of the fruit. I really love it. And it is just the natural pulp."
Not all Mr. Persoone's experiments are so successful. He recalls how his scientist collaborator once explained that chocolate contains the same hormone released by the brain during an orgasm. "My idea was to make small Valentine hearts with an overdose of this love hormone. I thought it was a funny idea."
After several weeks of experimentation the results were promising. "Together with the scientist, we tasted it and the result was amazing. You can't walk any more you are just smiling you really get ... wow!" This particular delight was destined however never to reach the lovers of Bruges. "I thought I ought to call the food and drug administration. They said: "Dominique please, your sniffer, it's OK, but this is too much. It's dangerous." It seems it's the same hormone they use in medicine for people who are depressed."
He does have a few other products that explore chocolate's erotic potential: a dark chocolate lipstick designed originally for enlivening consumption of vanilla ice-cream, but also good for sweet kisses; and an edible chocolate paint developed for the American artist Spencer Tunick, who dribbled it over scores of naked women squeezed into a Bruges alley for one of his trademark mass nudity tableaux.
What is the "Shock-o-latier" planning for Easter? Chicken-filled eggs, Easter bunnies with real bunny?
"No, nothing like that. I'm very open minded and I really like to have fun, fun, fun and do crazy things, but Easter and St. Nicholas, those things are such a wonderful tradition. That's why I make very classic eggs and rabbits. Those important moments in the year for children, I think we chocolate makers have to show respect for that and it would be stupid to change."
April 15, 2011
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
By Jason Wilson
The first rule about food and wine pairings? There are no rules. Is food and drink pairing advice a scam?
Wine advice from sommeliers, food writers, cookbook authors and wine educators almost always centers around pairing drinks with food. At times it seems as if all of civilization boils down to a single question: What do I drink with dinner? We are, in fact, drowning in tips on this matter. There are, at present, no less than 159 books available on Amazon to help solve this First World dilemma.
Yet, amidst all the hand-wringing, we may be learning that much of this advice is useless or irrelevant. In a recent industry study, reported last week in the Napa Valley Register, more than 60 percent of wine consumed by “high-frequency wine drinkers” is consumed without a meal. Understand that we’re talking about real wine drinkers, too, not just the person who pops open a liter of [yellow tail] once a year at a holiday party.
“High-frequency wine drinkers” — according to Wine Opinions, the market research firm that conducted the study — refers to the 29 million wine drinkers who consume the beverage daily, or at least several times per week. These drinkers drive more than 80 percent of the wine market, and almost all of the wine over $15 per bottle.
So if a majority of the bottles bought by the nation’s prime wine drinkers never sees a dinner table, how can we explain this obsession with pairing rules and etiquette?
Alder Yarrow, an influential wine blogger at Vinography.com, commented at length on the study and on what he calls American wine drinkers’s “insatiable demand for tips, tricks, rules, examples, guidance, glossaries and formulas.”
If the recent study is true, writes Yarrow:
...then our food and wine pairing obsession is as unhealthy, not to mention fruitless, as I have suspected. I’m sure that plenty of people regularly, even constantly explore and enjoy the exercise of matching food with wine, but for every glass carefully chosen to go with a specific dish, there appear to eight more consumed in the same way most people drink a scotch.
I can only barely imagine what might happen if wine writing and the attentions of wine lovers actually matched their real behavior. Would a large portion of the critical establishment stop excoriating all wines that are greater than 14.5 percent alcohol as having no place at the dinner table? Would wine drinkers feel free to not only drink whatever they like, but to explore and experiment in their wine choices without fear of doing something wrong? Would more people actually drink wine because they knew it didn’t always HAVE to go with food?
This isn’t the first time Yarrow has called food and wine pairings baloney. Three years ago, in a post titled “Food and Wine Pairing is Just a Big Scam,” he ranted that food media, along with sommeliers and chefs at fancy restaurants:
further reinforce a universal belief in three fundamental falsehoods when it comes to pairing food and wine:
Lie #1: For any given food/dish there is a “perfect,” “ideal” or “correct” wine pairing.
Lie #2: There are a ton of mistakes and pitfalls out there — lots of wines just “don’t go” with certain foods and vice versa.
Lie #3: Because of #1 and #2, food and wine pairing is an art that is hard to learn, requires deep knowledge and generally is best left to experts.
And these lies, dear reader, are tacitly supported by the wine establishment around the world, quite possibly because there’s a lot more money to be made if everyone acts as if they are true.
For Yarrow, food and wine pairings are a lie because “the single most important variable in the success of wine and food pairing lies completely out of the control of every sommelier and chef in the world. And that variable is me, you and every single person that sits down to a mouthful of food and a swig of wine.”
Gentle readers, what do you think?
By Jason Wilson | 08:00 AM ET, 04/01/2011
© 2010 The Washington Post Company About the Blog
All We Can Eat is a meeting place for the food-obsessed, a traffic signal at the ever-crowded intersection of politics, culture, aesthetics, desire and the dinner plate.
Pairing Wine and Chocolate
By Gregory Dal Piaz for www.snooth.com
Published on February 10, 2011
Wine and chocolate is a mysterious pairing that seems to have starkly different results for different palates. Which, of course, is fine since the only match that is good is the one that works for you. But it does make offering pairing recommendations a bit more difficult than it ought to be!
There is one standby that works wonders with most chocolate: the sweet red wine Banyuls from Southern France. Based on the Grenache grape, Banyuls seems to have the elusive balance of fruit, sugar, acidity and tannin that makes it chocolate’s perfect partner. Similar to Banyuls is Port -- in particular, the fruity style of port referred to as Ruby Port, which accounts for most of the branded port wines that the Port houses offer at very agreeable pricing.
So, what is it about chocolate that makes it so hard to pair?
Well, for starters there’s all that sugar and sugar generally requires sugar to achieve a balanced food and wine pairing. In addition, sugar can highlight the acid of a particularly high-acid wine, while at the same time it can make a low-acid wine seem remarkably dull and flat.
Another problem that we encounter with pairing wine and chocolate is that the texture of the chocolate can have a profound effect on how the wine works with each style. In most people’s minds there is some sort of continuum that stretches from white chocolate (not chocolate), to milk chocolate, medium bittersweet, and right through the almost bitter high cocoa examples.
The truth is when you break down the chocolate taste profile you end up with something that looks more like a bowtie than a straight line. On one end are the super-rich, creamy and sweet examples, such as your typical milk chocolate. On the other end are the bittersweet chocolates with high cocoa content. Both of these extremes represent the most intense versions of chocolate. On one end for its richness and sweetness, and on the other end for its intensity and bitterness.
In between, one finds chocolates that tend to be less rich and less sweet. One of the keys to pairing food and wines is trying to align the intensities of both. In this case we have both texture and the balance of sweet and bitter to deal with, so you can see how this might end up being a difficult pairing to work with. That’s why going with Banyuls or a similar wine is such an easy fall back.
Banyuls is well suited to chocolate because of its fruity character, obvious but balanced sweetness, slight tannic edge and overall rich mouthfeel -- four elements that have to be taken into account to make the match work. If you’re not into Banyuls, other wines can work with chocolates, but each type of chocolate might require a more specific recommendation.
What Wine Goes With This Chocolate?
Read more: http://www.snooth.com/articles/wine-and-food/pairing-wine-and-chocolate/?tm_campaign=2736&utm_medium=email&utm_source=all&utm_content=5881#ixzz1DaSd2DUK
January 28, 2011 | by G'town Gravyboat
Photos & article by The Georgetown Dish
CAG leaders Betsy Cooley, President Jennifer Altemus and Barbara Downs host a CAG art opening
CAG Arts 2011 packed a gallery space in Georgetown Park to showcase Georgetown's visual arts talent. "We did this to showcase the hidden treasures of our creative neighbors," said CAG President Jennifer Altemus. The committee chair of the event was Michele Banks, whose daughter Isabella Page sold the first work, a photograph, at the show. Nearly 30 artists were featured, including Barbara Downs and former Washington Examiner columnist Karen Feld, a sculptor, accompanied by muse Campari, a beloved purse-sized poodle. The show runs Friday, Jan. 28 through Tuesday Feb. 1 in The Shops at Georgetown Park, Level 2.
(Photo by: The Georgetown Dish)
Bill Shew and Leslie Maysak
(Photo by: The Georgetown Dish)
DCdigest's Donna Christenson and Elizabeth Maloy of CAG
(Photo by: The Georgetown Dish)
Author and sculptor Karen Feld surrounded by her work and her beloved Campari
(Photo by: The Georgetown Dish)
Georgetown Dish publisher Beth Solomon with Jennifer Altemus and Lesley Lee, all wearing Three Sisters designs, Lee's label.
IMPORTANT: Symptoms of a Stroke
A neurologist says if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can reverse the effects of a stroke ...totally. The trick is getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and medically cared for within 3 hours.
The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the 3 symptoms of a stroke -- STR.
You can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S *Ask the individual to SMILE.
New Sign of a Stroke -------- Stick out Your Tongue. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other that is also an indication of a stroke.
Bush, Obama, and the 'socialist' label
By Colbert I. King
Exactly two years ago today, an Associated Press headline read: "World economy shaky despite massive bank rescues." The story was about the U.S. government's decision to rescue banking giant Citigroup.
Economic conditions at home and abroad were the worst since the Great Depression. The outlook was so dire that the U.S. Treasury secretary pressured high-profile giant American banks to sell shares to the federal government as part of a financial rescue package - a Washington action until then unimaginable.
Yet the vilification of President Obama as a socialist began before he had fully unpacked at the White House. It has been relentless ever since, even though the charge misrepresents the truth.
Said Rush Limbaugh on Fox's "Sean Hannity" program on Jan. 22, 2009, just two days after Obama took the oath of office: "So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail. . . . Why would I want socialism to succeed?
Six months later, Sarah Palin weighed in on "Hannity": "Our country could evolve into something we do not even recognize. . ." Hannity interrupted her: "Socialism?" Palin: "Well, that's where we are headed."
Listening to those rantings, one might think Obama's entry into the White House was the dawn of the attack on American free enterprise.
Alas, some memories seem to fade with time - or succumb to political opportunism and the urge to lie.
History tells another story.
The architects of that breathtaking marketplace intrusion in 2008 were President George W. Bush and his Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson. And the Republican administration didn't stop there.
Watching the continuing economic meltdown, Bush launched another leap into the free market. In the name of protecting jobs and essential industries, Bush orchestrated a bailout of the auto industry. By the time Bush handed over the reins to Obama in January 2009, Washington had massively intervened in the U.S. economy.
The TARP that Tea Party members fulminate about? That's the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a multibillion-dollar Bush baby, used by the feds to purchase stock in banks and to acquire assets from sick financial institutions. TARP funds were also used to support the car industry. In fact, Bush issued an executive order that allowed the Treasury secretary to spend TARP funds on anything he deemed necessary to avert a financial crisis.
And Bush and Paulson weren't the only champions of bailing out Wall Street and Detroit.
Vice President Dick Cheney, that fierce protector of free enterprise, also lobbied for federal support for the automobile industry. In a December 2008 statement to Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday," Cheney accused Congress of failing to help a dying U.S. auto industry, charging that Bush had no choice but to step in with $17.4 billion in rescue loans to automakers.
Did anybody denounce Cheney as a socialist?
The "Let's sink Obama" crowd will tell you that it wasn't only the bailouts that got their jaws out of joint. They point with disdain to Obama's 2009 stimulus package, which they say only boosted the deficit, bringing nothing in return.
Another descent into amnesia, refusal to face the truth or an intentional misrepresentation of history.
Stimulus package? Let's go back to the beginning of 2008, the final year of the Bush-Cheney reign. Lest we forget, the $168 billion economic stimulus package that Congress passed in 2008 was sponsored by Bush. That stimulus was aimed at boosting the economy and staving off a recession. The Obama bashers are silent about what really happened.
The Bush stimulus wasn't balanced by a cut in spending. Along with his two wars, the Bush stimulus package contributed to a $500 billion deficit. Moreover, Bush's spending helped leave the country $10 trillion in debt by the time he blew town for Texas.
True, Obama followed Bush with a larger and more job-sustaining stimulus and spending packages of his own. And Obama signed into law a health-reform bill that will dramatically alter health-care financing and extend health insurance to 30 million uninsured Americans. It's amazing, however, how the right-wing collectives fail to apply the socialist label to conservatives Bush and Cheney, the two Republican leaders most responsible for leading the country in the direction of socialism, where Palin said "we are headed."
Of course, Palin et al are wrong on history and substance. Averting the collapse of the financial and auto industries - and the U.S. economy - served the country's best interests. The federal presence in both industries is now being ratcheted down. Bush and Obama were right to act as they did.
It's the singling out and demagoguing of Obama that's wrong and disgusting.
posted by: Beth Buczynski
On Wednesday, October 20th, the world's largest
artisanal food marketplace opened its doors for the eighth time in Torino,
Italy conjunction with Slow Food International's annual conference, Terra Madre.
This week on Ted.com - The brain in your gut
By DAVID DARLINGTON
One day last September while Leo McCloskey was driving to the Chappellet winery in Napa Valley, he telephoned a client in the neighboring valley of Sonoma. ''I'm looking at your metrics,'' McCloskey said. ''They're pretty beefy. If you have that at midferm, you're already there. You need 50 percent as a 4; I think drain-down-sweet is the name of the game this year. Let's do what they do at Lafite -- come out shy of tannin, and we'll add tannin. I want to encourage you to move more aggressively than you normally would.''
He listened for a few seconds. ''You're golden,'' McCloskey said. ''Beautiful -- you got a statue in the quad. Hey, I gotta fly.'' He ended the call and turned to me. ''If you're in Sonoma, you have to rearrange Mother Nature to match the beauty of Napa and Bordeaux,'' he said. ''Napa cabernet is the only New World wine ruler that's being used internationally. Sonoma is an also-ran.''
McCloskey steered onto the Silverado Trail, entering into Stags Leap, the area that produced the cabernet sauvignon that won a famous Paris tasting in 1976, heralding the international arrival of California wine. ''They picked too early,'' McCloskey said, gazing at acres of grapeless vines on both sides of the road. ''We have a weekly online bulletin that tells people when to pick. On Sept. 13 we said not to, and people who picked anyway drained down at 87.1.''
McCloskey could say this because his company, Enologix, takes grape samples from clients and extracts the juice to measure some of its chemical compounds. Then, using software developed by McCloskey, Enologix compares the chemistry of the projected wines with that of a benchmark example. The outcome is a score on a 100-point scale, analogous -- not coincidentally -- to those employed by critics like Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate and James Laube of Wine Spectator. McCloskey boasted that his ''thinking is in tune with Parker, Laube and Helen Turley'' -- the latter a California winemaker notorious for favoring big, fruity, intense wines.
Not everyone shares this taste, however. Many oenophiles argue that -- owing especially to the influence of Parker, who has been called the planet's most powerful critic of any kind, in any field -- wines all over the world have become more and more homogenous. The jammy, oaky international style is largely free of the tannins that mellow and lend flavor as a wine ages but can make it taste bitter or astringent when young. Yet these wines often lack a sense of terroir, or regional distinctiveness, celebrated by so many wine aficionados. Parker's most lamented impact is his popularization of the 100-point scale that is now employed by most wine magazines. The so-called Score has been described as America's main contribution to the wine business: a democratic, no-nonsense way of jettisoning the elitist jargon that veils quality from the consumer. It is also maligned for turning wine buyers into mindless puppets and vintners into sycophants seeking the favor of King Parker and King Laube.
But Leo McCloskey is unfazed. ''The wine world is so big today that without ratings it would be chaos,'' he says. ''The consumer doesn't need to know about terroir. He just wants to know whether a wine is worth $28 or whatever he's paying for it.''
In the 15 years since McCloskey went into business for himself as a wine consultant, the number of California wineries has increased from 800 to 1,700, roughly speaking. The market share of foreign-made wines in the United States has doubled over the same period. With so many wineries now under the bottom-line control of corporations -- Constellation, Bronco, Beringer Blass, Brown-Forman, Kendall-Jackson, Diageo, the Wine Group and the longtime kingpin, E. & J. Gallo -- it is easy to see the appeal of Enologix, with its promise of ''metrics that assist winemakers in . . . boosting average national critics' scores.'' But McCloskey doesn't stop there. He insists that high-scoring wines can, through chemical analysis, be scientifically proved to be the best wines on the market. In other words, there is accounting for taste.
The low-slung Enologix offices are situated in a mini-business-park in the town of Sonoma. When I visited McCloskey there, he said that he has a database containing records of 70,000 wines, including information about soil, climate, prices, winemaking techniques, grape-growing practices and critical scores. While traditional wine science focuses mainly on primary chemicals -- things like sugar, alcohol and acidity, which determine whether a wine meets basic standards of acceptability -- McCloskey looks at secondary chemicals (like terpenes, phenols and anthocyanins), which, in affecting more nuanced characteristics like texture, aroma, taste and color, are more closely associated with quality.
To analyze an individual wine, Enologix runs a sample through a liquid chromatograph (and for white wine, a mass spectrometer) to separate and measure chemical compounds. McCloskey says he has identified about 100 that can affect a person's response; to compute a wine's ''quality index,'' the ratios -- not just the amounts -- of these compounds to one another are compared with those of bottled wines previously judged and scored by groups of vintners, growers, owners and critics. McCloskey publishes his findings in his magazine, Global Vintage Quarterly, alongside a separate National Critics' Score, which represents an average rating compiled from five publications: Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine.
Enologix divides wine into four categories. For reds, Style 1 is pale in color and low in tannin, like most pinot noir or French Burgundy; Style 2 is also pale, but higher in tannin, like Italian Barolo; Style 3 is dark and tannic, like a great many cabernet sauvignons and first-growth Bordeaux; Style 4 is similarly dark but only moderately tannic. This last category, McCloskey told me, represents ''the vast majority of successful, flagship mainstream wines, the most elegant and popular wines in the world.''
Fermentation, the foundation of winemaking, occurs when yeast converts grape sugar into alcohol. Harvesting fruit late yields more intense flavor, though higher sugars result in higher alcohol levels; ''draining down sweet'' -- separating the juice in a fermentation tank from its crushed grape skins before all the sugar has been transformed -- means that less harsh-tasting tannin will find its way into the wine, with the side effect that it may age less well. According to McCloskey, these techniques (guided by Enologix chemistry and his winemaking expertise) can yield the Style 4 qualities -- rich, concentrated flavor and a soft, velvety sensation in the mouth -- that contemporary critics value most.
McCloskey claims that by using his system and the 100-point scale, winemakers can predict their own average critical scores within two and a half points with 95 percent accuracy (one and a half points with 80 percent accuracy). He says that the typical winery signing up with Enologix realizes a five-point rise over its previous years' average scores for red wines -- six for white. McCloskey's emphasis is on the luxury cabernet market in which wineries can afford Enologix's average annual service fee of $20,000. The company's revenues (which vary between $1 million and $1.4 million) flow from such prestigious names as Beaulieu, Benziger, Diamond Creek, Merry Edwards, Niebaum-Coppola, Ridge, St. Francis and Sebastiani. According to McCloskey, 39 Enologix wines scored 90 points or higher in a recent issue of The Wine Advocate.
The Chappellet winery is hidden in a grove of oaks backed by open slopes of grapevines, high among the rugged hills on Napa Valley's eastern edge. Founded in 1968 by Donn and Molly Chappellet, the company won early acclaim for its cabernet sauvignon, but as consumer tastes shifted toward softer textures and juicier fruit, it acquired the aura of a has-been. To turn things around, the owners hired a young winemaker, Phillip Titus, in 1990. He began working with Enologix in 1996, and in 2004 Connoisseurs' Guide chose a Chappellet cabernet as the Wine of the Year.
After parking the car and entering the winery's cavernous interior, we were greeted by Titus, now 49, who drew a foaming sample of merlot from a stainless-steel fermentation tank. As we tasted the wine, Titus recited its levels of tannin and complex anthocyanins -- in parts per million -- from the Enologix chemical report. ''In my tasting group, they can't speak this language,'' Titus said. ''Unless you're an Enologix client, you don't talk about complex anthocyanins.''
Soon we were joined by two more of McCloskey's clients, Sam Spencer and Wendy Roloson, who were making 5,000 cases of wine at Chappellet. With the first fruit he had picked, Spencer had pressed the wine off its skins after fermentation was finished. ''But when we looked at the results,'' McCloskey said, ''quality was low because tannin was high.''
''I wasn't able to drain down into a Style 4,'' Spencer confirmed.
''Your grapes are growing at Style 3,'' McCloskey told him. ''That's the pitch your terroir is throwing you. But Parker, Laube and the consumer are at Style 4, so you need to ask yourself, How can I get my wine stylistically in the right ballpark?''
The answer was that Spencer would have to press his remaining grapes earlier this time and aim to produce a successful product through blending. ''You need to be so low in tannin that you're going to feel really uncomfortable,'' McCloskey warned.
Later, Spencer told me that Enologix at first ''seemed like a luxury. It wasn't exactly forthcoming about how the system works -- you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to see how the metrics add up, and I wasn't convinced. But now I think it's a tool that every carpenter ought to have.''
Not all of McCloskey's clients are so complimentary. Several I spoke to declined to be quoted, apparently owing to a fear that being identified with Enologix would suggest that they have gone over to the dark side and are chasing the Score. (McCloskey calls this ''the cover-up,'' when winemakers refuse to acknowledge their use of modern technologies at odds with romantic marketing images.)
Joel Peterson, co-founder and general manager of Ravenswood (a noted zinfandel winery where I once worked), told me that after Ravenswood's brief experience with Enologix, he thought the company provided information only for making one style of wine. ''It's a very narrow definition of taste,'' Peterson says. ''Part of the charm and beauty of wine is its idiosyncrasy, but when everybody tries to hit the same sweet spot, it's like making soda pop.'' And when all wines taste alike, he says, ''as a consumer you have to ask what you're paying for.''
Although McCloskey is fond of proclaiming that ''the consumer is king,'' sales don't figure into the Enologix Index. In lieu of formal studies or statistics, McCloskey (like most of the rest of the wine industry) accepts the axiom that buyers obey critics, whether or not the average consumer's palate agrees with that of the average wine writer.
The common objection to the Score is that wine is too complex a beverage to be summed up in a single number. The way in which someone responds to a wine depends on myriad variables: stylistic preference, mood, the accompanying food and the state of the wine itself after shipping and storing and aging -- not to mention the prejudices and expectations that attend a wine's reputation and price. For the same reason that a thundering symphony or screaming guitar solo may not make the best dinner music, wines that do poorly in competitive tastings sometimes fare better with meals than those attention-grabbing ones that impress judges in isolation. Hence, by keying his chemical evaluation system to critical scores, McCloskey makes the (not uncommon) assumption that intensity is tantamount to quality, when it's often equivalent only to extravagance.
''The prevailing critics can't distinguish real quality,'' says Randall Grahm, the winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyards (like Ravenswood, a former Parker favorite that fell from grace as it grew). ''They're easily fooled by fakery because the only thing they're looking for is concentration. That probably can be correlated with chemistry -- but I would argue that while it can be an indicator of quality, it's not the only one. It doesn't speak to balance, for example.''
Roger Boulton, a professor in the department of viticulture and oenology at the University of California, Davis, is critical of the fact that Enologix's analytical methods aren't available for outsiders to verify. ''If Leo is so sure about these things,'' Boulton asked me, ''why are they hidden?'' Others agree, complaining that McCloskey's proprietary system constitutes a ''black box'' impervious to academic and professional scrutiny.
''I'm not in the tenure-track business,'' McCloskey retorts. ''I followed the academic rules and published papers for a while. I found it was insanely slow. If you walked up to Steve Jobs and asked him to reveal everything, he'd say, 'Get out of my face.'''
McCloskey, interestingly enough, grew up in San Francisco and Cupertino, Calif., the home of Jobs and Apple Computer. Upon graduating from Oregon State in 1971 with a degree in general science, he returned home and got a job painting barrels with mildicide at nearby Ridge Vineyards; within a year, he had taken over the winery's lab -- such as it was -- and by the time he was 25 had published new methods for measuring alcohol and malolactic fermentation (both now essential to wine analysis). In 1976 he helped to found Felton-Empire, a winery whose first vintage riesling won the Sweepstakes Award at the Los Angeles County Fair.
Paul Draper, the now celebrated vintner who arrived at Ridge shortly before McCloskey, recalls that Charlie Rosen -- one of the winery's founders and then head of artificial intelligence at the Stanford Research Institute -- considered McCloskey a genius, and Maynard Amerine, a noted U.C. Davis professor who helped to classify California's wine regions by climate, suggested that McCloskey get a doctorate at Davis with the aim of joining the faculty. But Rosen and Carl Djerassi, a Ridge investor and the inventor of the birth-control pill, advised McCloskey to study ''things like chemistry and mathematics, which actually have principles,'' McCloskey says. ''Enology is more like a social science.'' While remaining a paid consultant at Ridge, McCloskey attended U.C. Santa Cruz, and there he met his future wife, Susanne Arrhenius, a Swedish-born grad student whose lineage included two Nobel laureates in chemistry. Following Arrhenius into the field of chemical ecology, which analyzes the relationships between organisms and their environments, McCloskey completed his Ph.D. while continuing to consult with private clients and serve as president of Felton-Empire.
''Chemical ecology says that a wine's flavor, color and fragrance are expressions of its ecosystem,'' McCloskey told me. ''Wine scientists thought grapes were more complicated than any other plant system. But we found out that Vitis vinifera produces a relatively simple list of flavors. Grapes are really rather primitive.''
Soon after McCloskey left U.C. Santa Cruz, Felton-Empire was sold. Along the way, he noticed that the U.S. wine industry was becoming more businesslike and less entrepreneurial. ''Critics were starting to control the value chain that went from the winery to the distributor to the retailer and restaurateur to the consumer,'' McCloskey says. ''By 1990 everybody was discrediting the Score, but I saw that the critics were going to win because Americans wanted to reduce their risk of purchase and winemakers weren't filling the information void.''
That year, 1990, McCloskey met with Dick Graff, then chairman of the Chalone Wine Group. McCloskey told him that although winemakers always seemed surprised when their efforts didn't pan out, chemistry could actually predict critical performance. Graff arranged for McCloskey to taste Chalone wines with all the company's vintners, after which McCloskey assembled the results and analyzed the wines' chemistry. Later the winemakers were presented with 12 wines, and asked to rank the 6 best and 6 worst. While others tallied the votes, McCloskey produced a sealed envelope containing his chemically based predictions: he correctly guessed the group's Top 3 and Bottom 3 choices, in the correct order.
After that, Graff introduced McCloskey to the owners of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, the famous first-growth Bordeaux estate that had a financial interest in Chalone. When McCloskey analyzed the chemistry of Lafite's vintages from the previous decade, his quality index exactly mirrored their economic performance. McCloskey continued to work with Lafite for the next four years, over which time he gained a dozen more clients. In 1993 he trademarked the name Enologix.
A week and a half after the meeting at Chappellet, Sam Spencer visited the Enologix offices with samples of wine he had pressed according to McCloskey's instructions. Studying its numbers, McCloskey said, ''That's a home run.''
''I literally baby-sat the fermenter,'' Spencer said.
Later, in the privacy of his office, McCloskey told me, ''My goal is to make my customers self-sufficient so that metrics alone can solve all their problems.'' Toward that end, he is now creating a thousand proprietary documents that will include all of his winemaking knowledge. Ultimately, he said, ''I'll be replaced by customer-management software.''
And if McCloskey has his way, descriptions of a wine's terroir will be replaced by reports on its levels of tannin and complex anthocyanin.
David Darlington is the author of ''Zin: The History and Mystery of Zinfandel'' (originally published as ''Angels' Visits''), among other books, and writes the Short Finish column for Wine & Spirits magazine.
August 7, 2005
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