Olfactory Curiosity -- Or, Smells like Sulfur, and Denim

It's been a week of interesting aromas here at the Towes'. In no particular order, I offer you a few lessons learned (or re-learned, anyway):

  • Roasted pork belly remnants, which make the trash cabinet smell amazing on day 1, turn it into a rancid pit on day 2.
  • Cheese rinds, formerly belonging to glorious fromages of magnificent funkiness, should be sealed in something indestructible before you throw them in the kitchen garbage. (Or, the kitchen on the morning after smells like a week-old dirty diaper.)
  • Sulfur smells awful. Especially when you set it on fire.
  • If your 10-year-old says your wine smells like jeans, perhaps you should take her seriously.

(The first three, I already knew. Really.) 

We Used Sulfurous Gases

Garage winery update: This week we continued our dark-of-night patio-barrel-business, as we needed to get our racking barrel sulfured up and ready. It'll be springtime before we rack (move the wine off the lees - dead yeast cells - and natural sediment that settles to the bottom of the barrel during secondary fermentation); but a freshly sulfured barrel, while clean and sanitary, holds inside that rotten-egg stink we all remember so well from chemistry class. And/or Rotorua, NZ. If you've been there.

Chemistry magic! Hold your nose.

Since this is our first time making wine, we're all kinds of new at everything. Kevin, our Winemaking Guru (see, I've gone to initial caps now, which means he can put it on his resume), told us he's heard it works just great to tie a sulfur stick to a chopstick with string; light it on fire (thereby creating SO2); and dangle it into the barrel while it burns. Then, you bung it. Quickly.

Doesn't this sound like fun? We rolled out the barrel to the front patio after putting the children to bed, and gave it a try. We also waved to the neighbor in the Prius who drove (slowly) by our place while we held a flaming stick of stank on a chopstick. In the dark.

Pay no attention to any of this. Thanks.

Plans for the Double-Double Blind

This week, it was Jody's turn to get the blind dinner ready. He's an incredible cook, and only in the past few years have I even been allowed (and felt competent enough to be) in the kitchen. Jody grew up with a CIA-trained stepfather who worked as a fine-dining hotel chef. His world involved constant exposure to the newest and most innovative kitchens and trends. So, the dinners Jody puts together for our family and friends always are eagerly anticipated, and savored.

Tonight, I had an all-day work seminar in downtown San Diego, which meant after it was done, I could pay a visit to The Wine Bank, a cool wine shop in the heart of the Gaslamp District. It's a bit overpriced, but the selection is fabulous. You open a yellow wrought-iron gate to go down semi-treacherous stairs into what feels like your obscenely rich and awesome friend's wine cellar. Except for the very non-hidden cameras all around. (Which you can watch, six panels at a time, on a split-screen as you wait in line to pay upstairs.) I browsed a bit, selected a secret wine for tonight's double-double blind, and headed north on I-5 toward home, wondering what was for dinner.

The Food

For the secret dinner menu, Jody prepared:

  • Salad of Romaine Hearts, Matchstick Pink Lady Apples and Toasted Walnuts, with Point Reyes Blue-Buttermilk Dressing.
  • Natural Grass-Fed Bone-In Skillet-Seared Pork Chops

(I know. We're lucky.)

The Wine

I didn't have much of an agenda for the wine, except that I figured I'd pick whatever spoke to me at the wine shop/Candid-Camera cellar. When I got home, I decanted the brown-bagged bottle and set it on the table.

Jody was on deck for the blind-tasting. His first thought upon swirling and sniffing: Italian. 2004 or 2005. "It smells like an old-world wine on the nose; not a lot of fruit in your face."

Here's what he guessed: Montepulciano/Italy/2004

Here's what it was:

2005 Taliano DOC Barbera d'Alba "Laboriosa" - Monta d'Alba (Piemonte)

The Pairing

I smelled rich blackberry on the nose initially, along with pencil lead and a touch of vanilla. (Why does that have to sound so pretentious?) The color was garnet, with a hint of amber around the edges in the light, indicating some bottle age. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with nice upfront acids and a kind of raspberry-with-a-backbone finish.

With the romaine salad, it was a pleasant enough pairing. If I were matching non-blind, I wouldn't necessarily have chosen it, but the mature quality of the several years in bottle held up with the aged Point Reyes blue cheese, which gave a nice depth to the salad dressing.

With the seared pork chops, the wine really shone. It seemed the simpleness of each component riffed off of one another -- the pork and wine, each relatively rustic and unadorned, complemented each other beautifully.

The Children

Elijah, age 6: "It smells strong. Like sour cherry."

Talia, age 10: "It smells like jeans."

This would have been the end of it, except I happened to Google-Translate the Italian-only webpage of Taliano Michele winery. Here's what they had to say about this very bottle of wine: "The taste is broad cloth,"

Broad cloth? Like, um, a roll of thick woven fabric? Like jeans? Nice work, Talia.

Until next time -- thanks for reading, and for your thoughts.