It’s summertime (still—honest) and the living is wine cocktails-y. At least it should be cause wine cocktail are refreshing, and un-snooty, and fun, and delicious, and all that. And recently, as if me saying it aloud and in digital form wasn’t enough, I did a little interview with Woman’s World magazine, so it’s in print. And print is forever. So, pick up the most recent issue of said magazine. I also have the page with me here below (but the whole issue is fun, naturally), which has some wine cocktails talk, two recipes from the book Wine Cocktails, notes about how wine and wine cocktails are healthy (including protecting breasts, which I’m all for and which is just another reason why cocktails are the definition of awesome), and something about Ladybug Bling–which can’t be bad. So, read up:
If you drink wine, like charming ladies, enjoy reading jolly and informative writing about drinking and drinks (and really, why would you be here if not?), live in the mid-west, want to learn about wine while feeling like you’re hanging out with the rad-est wine teacher ever, or all of the above, then I strongly suggest you visit the Savvy Lush. But who (or what, I suppose), you might ask, is the Savvy Lush? Well, she’s a woman with an incredible knowledge about wine. And it’s knowledge picked up the right way: by drinking a lot of wine, starting with a trip in her youth to Italy (which is the finest way to start, of course). On her site she details reds and whites, skanks and snobs, and more in convivial and bubbly style. She also has a “Guest Swiller” section that she’s kicking off, and right now there’s a bit of wine cocktails talk from me. But don’t let that keep you from her blog–bookmark it and read it regular. With a glass of wine in hand of course.
It’s now just about a year since the beginning of wife Nat and I’s last month of Italian pre-tirement (if that makes sense–we came back May of last year). Which is, if not tragic, at least personally sad. Luckily, there’s wine here–even if it does come packing a lot of markup. But it’s here, and brings some of Italy along with it. And luckily there’s Francesco Redi. Who was a physician (to some of those Medici dukes), scientist, and poet. Those days you could be more of everything (and by those days, I mean the 1600s). He was also from Arezzo (where I spent a few fun days when living there) and wrote the poem “The Mamelukes May Love,” all about wine (said poem translated in In Their Cups). The bottom is just the poem’s finale—hey, you can buy the book for the whole thing and help me get back to Italy.
for a moment, do not drink,
but run your fingers like garlands
through my hair. I won’t crave your
sugary egg punch, or golden
sorbets, a thousand fragranced waters,
because these indolent drinks are only
for your sweet lips. Wine, wine
is for those desire euphoria,
to forget their fears. But be not shy about it–
I tip my glasses crazily, happily,
at least six times a year.
— Francesco Redi, The Mamelukes May Love
Sometimes, I’m almost too sad to write more than one sentence. Or six. This is one of those times, because we recently finished our last bottle of Bindolo, the wine from Donini we drank a fair amount of when we lived in Italy. You can read more about Bindolo and Donini in this past post, and then get on a plane and go pick some up (and tell Diego hello for us). Me, I’m going to look at the picture and tear up (though the sadness is partially offset by the fact that we shared that last bottle with pals Rebecca, who makes the great Deluxe jams and cocktail syrups, and Eric, who owns the best bike shop in Seattle, JRA. At least we had that last bottle with awesome folks).
In an earlier Cocktail Talk post, I had a quote from Qiu Xiaolong’s book Death of a Red Heroine (which I highly recommended then and still do now), and talked a bit about the author and his main character in the series, Shanghai poet and Chief Inspector Chen (though Chen’s second-in-command Detective Yu gets a lot of deserved face time on the page, too, with chapters often switching off with the two as alternating protagonists). So, for more background, go read that post. Cause here I just want to get straight into this quote, which is from a book in the series called A Case of Two Cities, which takes place not only in late 20th century Shanghai but also Los Angeles and St. Louis. This quote is actually Chen remembering “a short poem by Wang Han, an eighth-century Tang dynasty poet,” and would have made a dandy addition to In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinkers, and Drinks had I known of it.
Oh the mellow wine shimmering
in the luminous stone cup!
I am going to drink
on the horse
when the army Pipa starts
urging me to charge out.
Oh, do not laugh
if I fall dead
drink in the battlefield.
How many soldiers
have really come back home
since time immemorial?
–Wang Han, quoted in Qiu Xiaolong’s A Case of Two Cities
Ayala’s Angel sounds a bit like a not-tawdry-enough romance novel that you’d find in the quarter bin of a bookstore specializing in romance trade-ins and the occasional “art” book. While it does have a bit of romance, if you decided not to read the book solely because of the connotations involved with the title, you’d be one sad reader, pal. Cause it’s an Anthony Trollope number, and while it has its fair share of yucks and laffs (perhaps it is as gently witty towards its main characters as any Trollope I’ve read), they’re surrounded by that eye for everyday detail that makes Trollope (along with the fact that his characters are memorable, his prose is sweet, etc, etc) so enjoyable to read. And the fact that it contains the following quote that references a particular vintage of claret (Trollope was so fond of this winery he bought–as the book’s notes tell us–24 bottles in one go) makes the book even better. Any reverence for a particular booze bears repeating:
But before the end of the first fortnight there grew upon her a feeling that even bank notes become tawdry if you are taught to use them as curl-papers. It may be said that nothing in the world is charming unless it be achieved at some trouble. If it rained ’64 Leoville–which I regard as the most divine of nectars–I feel sure that I should never raise it to my lips.
I was pal-ing around with my pal Keith here in Italy the other day (he and his wife, pal Tashsa, were visiting here recently–you can read more about it either now or soon on my blog Six Months In Italy), and we randomly stopped by this winery/wine-tasting place in Trestina while wife Nat and Tasha were shopping in the Eurospar next door. The winery, called Donini, was dark, but we thought we saw some lights on in back, and so tried the door. Which opened, but it just looked closed when we peered further inside, and we didn’t see anybody in the front room, though the lights were on in the wine room (meaning, the room with big vats of wine in it), and so we shut the door and started walking away. We got about ten feet when the door re-opened behind us and a friendly-looking fella walked out, giving us a hollar and an invite to c’mon back in and look around. The space inside was really cozy, with stacks of wine from Donini in front, and then tables and lots of other wines and boozes in back. The Donini wine was incredibly reasonable, and we were browsing it when the gentleman who let us in said “would you like to taste some?” We, naturally, jumped like thirsty dogs at the chance, and Diego (which is what the gentleman’s name turned out to be) starting setting us up, bringing us glasses and bottles and crackers and bread and loads of smiles. Before long, Nat and Tash caught up with us, and so we sat around with Diego tasting wines and telling stories for a bit. All of which was great, but even better was that the wines were fantastic, and when considering the prices—super fantastic (we’re talking single digit Euros for a bottle, from two euro fifty for a frizzante summer sparkler to a mere nine euro for a 3 year aged vin santo that I’d serve the Queen, if I knew her). Perhaps Nat and I’s favorite (and a fav with Keith and Tash, too) was the Bindolo. It was a very young wine, meant to be consumed now, and had a flavor and personality that matched its name: naughty little boy. Very light on the tongue, very bouncy, and very bursting with berry accents and a schools-out style. We liked it enough that we bought 6 bottles (as well as some of that vin santo mentioned earlier, and that ultra-reasonable sparkler) and will probably get more; it’s just so easy going, an ideal dinner wine when you don’t want to be all stuffy and serious. Now, the only problem is this: Donini is impossible to get in the states at the moment. Diego said there was one spot in NY, but that’s a long way from Seattle. So, importers or wanna be importers, get on it! I want Donini available by the time I return in late April.
After the longish (or just plain long) Tom Waits post below, I thought I’d slip in a short couple of quotes from a book that almost echoes Waits (a book which is definitely the inspiration for the “ethics” scene in the Coen brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing, too), in that there are some shady and weird characters and everyone ends sad, dead, or drunk–a book called Kill and Tell. The first one’s about going into a bar, and the second about drinking at home (cause I wanted to cover the bases).
The bar was a fine old piece of imitation mahogany, and there was a fine old imitation Irishman in a white coat behind it.
We lifted our glasses to each other; the wine was cool and dry. I kept refilling our glasses while we ate, and when Jake brought the coffee Catherine asked him for some brandy. We were celebrating; each of us understood that.
“I think I’m drunk,” she told me.
“I’m drunk, too,” I said.
—Kill and Tell, Howard Rigsby