Zucchini, potato, basil, pork, buttermilk, lemon

Today was not exactly the day I had in mind. But I think I did okay. My 5:30 AM internal alarm clock is not a helpful feature when bedtime is 2 AM. So I spent much of the day trying to add hours to my sleep total in between periods of only fairly productive wakefulness. And then I went to a wine tasting.

I’ve never been to a formal wine tasting before. I found it…well…after two hours of thinking almost exclusively in adjectives, I find the experience oddly hard to describe. I guess I would have to go with overwhelming.

Wine is a multi-billion dollar global industry, with product from thousands of producers over hundreds of years. And some we’re supposed to let all that information sort of seep into us and from a few physical characteristics know ‘who’ the wine is (grape), where it’s from, and how old it is. To me this seems sort of like standing in front of a busy city landmark, examining every person who walks by and accurately guessing their street address. I certainly don’t think it’s impossible. To the well-trained or naturally gifted observer there is a lot of information available in even the plainest of settings. But I suspect the people who are very good –at either guessing addresses or identifying wines– have a calculus going on in their heads that falls outside the limits of the checklist. And while I appreciate the efforts of the wine community to come up with a common language I feel intimidated and frustrated by the canonized indicators. Most of the time wine just doesn’t taste like the description to me. Yet, those descriptors are the sign posts to what grape it is. So each person has to learn their own translation.

Some of them are obvious, guava is still a tropical fruit so if I taste guava or papaya instead of pineapple, I can still call that tropical fruit. But what about when I am tasting apricot in the red wines or when wine just taste like grapes, mutilated, greying, silty grapes. That descriptor is not on the sheet and I’m not sure what region it points to. I need my own industry-wine-speak to Allison-wine-speak dictionary.

My jury is out. It was a thoughtful exercise and it put me in a thoughtful mood, which was perfect for driving along the Charles on Storrow with the last of the sunset, the moon and the city lights. I will keep thinking about whether or not I want to know grapes that well.

Arriving home to odds and ends in the fridge, I sautéed the last of a zucchini, and dressed it in pesto with crispy garlic. I made mashed potato patties, from the cooked potato for the mulitgrain bread I haven’t baked yet, and fried them on both sides in butter. The zucchini went over the potatoes. A side of a few slices of cold soppressata. Dessert, buttermilk cupcakes with the lemon curd I won’t stop talking about. More than filling. Plain boiled russets are very fluffy and take to the brown butter well. I’ll admit that I closed with a little bit of cheese to cut the sweetness.

I learned a lot more tonight than what wines I prefer (young reds) and what grapes I don’t know by their features (all of them). But just like those beverages, these new ideas will need to ferment a little before showing their true nature.

Thanks to Boston Sommelier Society and Les Zygomates for hosting.



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