Monday, April 29, 2013

In-home dance party

Somehow I missed this. My charming friend Eve remedied that. Although she showed it to me after I did a douchey little monologue about tasting wine properly, so now I'm realizing it might have been a hint. Hey nice to meet you I'm Ali and I am the worst.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Good shit

The second class in UCLA Extension's wine program is a lot harder than the first one. It's twice as long and rather than an overview of grape varietals, it's a detailed look at the winemaking process, from growing to producing to bottling. I say detailed, and it is, but really we're barely scratching the surface. Wine making involves an estimated 3000+ decisions: choosing a vineyard site, selecting a trellising system, purchasing the correct tractor tires for your terroir... It's baffling. Where in Intro to Wine I was top of my class, in Vintage I I'm lagging behind. And I feel like trying to catch up is mad futile because even if I do catch up, I'll still know nothing.

The sheer amount of information one must master and then put into practice to make a bottle of wine is astounding. Even then, so many uncontrollable factors can come into play. Add to that people are often gambling their life savings to open a winery and this can make for an extremely high-pressure situation. Which sounds a lot like my and everyone else who reads this blog's move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, except with more outdoors time and less drinking all the wine in one's possession alone and without joy. Show me a screenwriter-winemaker and I will show you someone on the liver transplant list. It's kind of weird that I have that list. I feel like I shouldn't. I think someone probably screwed something up.

Today in the course's self-published textbook I read something I feel applies to any work, whether it's wine making or screenwriting or even a real job. "There is an old saying in agriculture that 'the best fertiliser is the farmer's footstep...'" I thought that was really beautiful, even when I looked it up and found that the author had gotten the saying wrong (the correct one is a Chinese proverb: "The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow"). The idea, however, is the same, and I really like both the word "footstep" and correcting people. The surest way to be good at something is to work at it. Damn, I hate when Malcolm Gladwell is right. Jk, I don't, his books are so easy to read, they're like trashy intellectual novels. And they make you sound so smart at parties.

But even when one works hard, there's always that unexpected spring frost, that script that sold with an identical concept to your own, that unexpected event that is the opposite of serendipity. At these moments, one can only cling to the work done. After all, fertilizer is shit. But hard work is the best shit there is.* Other than donuts.

Taking pride in work itself is a way to stay sane. To feel you've accomplished something even when by "society's" "standards" you have not. To maybe even go to your five-year college reunion (which I am so not doing because there's pride and then there's just ignorance of the shame you deserve. I froze the rest of these donuts so I wouldn't have to throw them away when they got stale. And I've been eating them pretty God damn steadily). When hard work, rather than success, is the short-term goal, achieving the long-term goal is even sweeter. Or I assume it is. I have achieved zero of my long term goals. Oh, but I'm super good at text messaging. Like, fantastic.

So farm with many a footstep. Throw yourself passionately into your pursuits, however foolish they may be. Freeze donuts, once they thaw out it is like you just bought them, they really keep. 

*Except the shit of people who take probiotics. Man, that shit sounds like gold. People are so proud of it. Is there merit to this? Part of me wonders if maybe these people just really need a thing. Like, ok, I'll be the dude who talks about how great his shit has been since taking probiotics. Dude. That's not a good thing to have as your thing. Read a Malcolm Gladwell book. Don't be this guy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wine + expectations

Gewurztraminer is a very aromatic grape which, in I believe one of my best posts to date, I recently came to terms with loving. So I picked up this 2010 Columbia Valley Columbia Winery Gewurztraminer at the 5 cent wine sale.

As far as this flavorful grape goes, this wine is pretty mild. Thank goodness it has a fair amount of petillance. I had to stick my nose all up into that glass to get aromas, even with those baby bubbles to help me out. But there they were, spice (candied ginger comes to mind) and rose (but oh-so-little and it was gone in a day) and tinned lychee or maybe dried persimmon--some dense, sweet fruit going on. Sweet on the palate with enough acidity to keep it from being flabby, this has everything a Gewurztraminer should have, just a little less. It's a little more restrained. A little duller.

It's the Lady Edith of wines.

That doesn't mean it sucks. I mean, ok, if you were expecting Ladies Sybil, Mary or Dowager Countess Violet, you will be bored by this wine. But it's a Gewurztraminer you can actually pair with savory food without having to worry it will wear pants or fuck a Turk or be so deliciously and eloquently catty you just... can't even! It will go great with plenty of foods without monopolizing the conversation. Chicken, turkey, or savory foods with a good amount of sugar like Thai food or tagine will all taste A+ with this. It's also sweet enough to enjoy with a light dessert like pear sorbet or an elegant fruit tart. Lady Edith has all the basics in place but none of that irritating "personality" to get in the way.

The only problem is, Lady Edith also fancies herself interesting and modern. But really she's just pair-able. That's her best quality. If this weren't labeled a Gewurztraminer, I wouldn't be disappointed. But when you expect something vibrant and fragrant, cause it was all, "I am vibrant and fragrant by name and occupation," YOU DON'T WANT LADY FUCKING EDITH.

Peace out, lame wine. I'm bringing my second, 5 cent bottle to a party. A PARTY.

Lady Edith at dinner

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wtf is...


Sometimes white wine that isn't sparkling has little bubbles in it. This is called petillance. Like most of us raised to be effervescent, is usually not an error. Bubbles occur naturally in a wine when fermentation happens in a closed container. That's how classic champagne is made. But a little spritz can be added to white wines so that their aromatics will carry up to your nose rather than sitting in the glass. Call it pseudo-sparkling if you like. You will be wrong to call it that, but you will make sense. If you want to be right and pretentious and often misunderstood, say the wine has petillance. I feel like I've given you a fair breakdown of acceptable options here. Petillance lifts light aromatics in whites so you can enjoy them more lazily.

Spritz and shout

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Karber's Korner

My brilliant friend Greg asked if he could write the occasional guest post. I, not being an idiot who hates creativity, said yes. Check out more of Greg's kickass work here and here.



You are excited to go to The Magic Castle because it is a historic Los Angeles landmark, and also because of the strict dress code -- coat and tie for men, skirt or dress for women -- and also because of the almost certain guarantee that you will see a celebrity.

One of your friends knows a magician, and she got a pass that will get seven of you in. So you carpool and leave your friend’s car with the valet.

You pay the cover and get the night’s password. You utter it in front of a bookshelf and the bookshelf opens up, revealing a hall. You enter and find yourself in a front of a bar. You grab a glass of Au Bon Climat and begin to drink. It is delicious.

You find a magic show to watch, and grab another glass. You don’t want to finish yours in the middle of a show and just have to watch some of the best magicians in the world.

You drink so many glasses you cannot remember if that is your card.

You wander the serpentine halls in a daze. You learn that legendary sleight-of-hand artist Dai Vernon was the Magician-in-Residence for many years, that he sat at the bar and performed tricks for the guests. You carry on his legacy by making a stranger’s cheese plate disappear.

You stumble into Irma’s Piano Parlor. Irma is a great pianist. She takes requests and requests you tip. The twist: Irma is a ghost. You request “Born to Run.” She nails it. The performance is definitely worth two dollars. As you put the bread in her jar, the room begins to spin.

You mutter a lame excuse and head for the bathroom. You pass a minor celebrity, but you ignore them. You feel like your insides are being shuffled.

You stumble into the bathroom and lock yourself in the stall. The lovely tile provides a cool surface on which to sprawl. Occasionally, you pull yourself up to the toilet and hurl a torrent of grade-red vomit. You slip in and out of consciousness until a friend slides a tray of crackers under the door. You nibble and are revived. Abrakadabra.

Irma and child (both ghosts):

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm so tired

get this wine. it was good. jammy. tasted good. cool bottle. pair with dia de los meurtos decor. goodnight. the wine is pretty cheap and you could get it at trader joe's. a thing i would like for my birthday is trader joe's gift cards or gift cards for my rent. NOT travelers cheques.

Benefactor Cellars 2011 Shiraz

Friday, April 12, 2013

In-home dance party

So my favorite hobby is writing new words to pre-existing songs. Even songs as incredible as this:

It made me think... what about us darling New England girls? Ok, so our region lacks the sexiness and specificity of the South. Whatever. Don't we deserve a song? Don't we deserve a song with the EXACT SAME TUNE? OH YES WE DO, THANKS FOR MAKING ONE, ALI.

She's New England

Music by whoever wrote "She's Country"
Lyrics by Ali Schouten

She's an average-sized human in her practical boots
Daddy's Irish Catholic, Momma's a Jew
She's a hard-drinking WASP
From just north of Boston
She's a glue-sniffing townie
From Merrimack County

Hates the toll bridge
Loves foliage
Vermont maple syrup is the only shit
With a
Huge divide in wealth
Not sure if there's a hell
The Departed was dope.

New England!
From her field hockey sweats to her fear of death
New England, yeah-eah
From the songs she plays to the shrink she pays
That's the way she was born and raised
Unless she moved here for school and stayed!
New England!
Sox, Pats, Bruins

Makes sure she's inside when the sun goes down
Cause it's cold as fuck and the human body has limitations
She can cause some pain from Rhode Island to Maine
Like a half day's drive in her aunt's minivan

Massapequa Shaniqua
Ready for the cold
Cause it's inside her soul
Bony bitchy broad
Thinks about New York
The Fighter should have won the Oscar.

New England!
From her big snow tires to she's dead inside
New England, yeah-eah
Plays squash the best, she'll tweet her own death
That's the way she was born and raised
Better believe she can ice skate!
New England!
Ali is probably the third most common name among women

(then there's a long talking interlude, which totally fits my New England experience, so whatever, "The South." There's also lots of guitar, but it's not acoustic or terrible so I can't relate)

She's New England
From her cowboy boots
That she got at J. Crew

She's New England!
She knows how to punch
And she fuckin loves brunch
New England, yeah-eah
The New Kids On the Block
Are from her block.
That's the way she was born and raised
Got her period when she was eight!
New England!
It's probably the maple syrup.
That awesome maple syrup.

From Connecticut
To places that don't suck
She's a girl from a place
She's New England

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This is just to say

"I have eaten 
the plums 
that were in 
the icebox 

and which 
you were probably 
for breakfast 

Forgive me 
they were delicious 
so sweet 
and so cold"
Suck it, William Carlos Williams. I live alone, so I eat all the plums I want.

I also drink more wine than my budget ought to allow, but when it's a cheap little thrill like this cutie-pie of a Pinot Grigio, c'est la vie. Or like, the Italian version of c'est la vie.

Another TJ's recommendation (can you tell I finally went grocery shopping this weekend?), the 2012 Villa Borghetti Grigio Luna is, like most Pinot Grigios, light and sprightly. It's got the wet stone aroma of a Sauvignon Blanc without the ultra-tart grapefruit flavor that often comes along with it. The fruit on this is more apricot or nectarine, and the wine has a creamy quality with relatively low acid. It's not sweet, it's just pure refreshment. Oh-so-drinkable for this spring weather we've been having, pair this baby with a porch. This would also make a great base for a white sangria or a white wine spritzer with a few raspberries thrown in.

Also, this is just to say, I am still working on the puzzle. It is so sweet and so hard and so 4000 pieces.

I sit inside of it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Off topic...

But thought I ought to share. I just made some delicious lavender simple syrup using the Hot Method described here. I can't wait to make some lavender cocktails! Use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1.5 tablespoons lavender buds. Then pour it into an old, rinsed-out bottle and stopper it like below. Yummmm. Also will probably be incredible on pancakes.

Wine + donuts

Could it work?

Well, not like this.

There we go! 



Better wash it down with some pure donut. Ooh, and maybe it's not about dipping, it's about pairing!

Nope. Not at all.

Donuts are still great and wine is still great. Just not together.

Already eyeing another one


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sorry if you can't handle my realness


Hey, people in relationships. I win.

I also got this sexy little thing at Trader Joe's tonight:

Lest you think I'm antisocial, I had a good 45 minute conversation with the wine expert on duty. We talked so long, I might be able to claim her as a black friend. If I needed to do that. If I didn't already have like, a million black friends. I have black friends. It's just none of my friends of any race wanted to come over for steak. But they're real friends, guys. They exist for sure.

Anyway, I asked my new close friend what would go with steak for "a dinner party I'm having this week." She didn't have to know all the details. She suggested the 2011 Darkhorse Cabernet Sauvignon. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Bursting with mocha flavor but less rich than the lovely Cocobon, this fruit-forward, black cherry and smoke-laden vixen had the tannins and the attitude to stand up to my peppery pan-fried steak. Juicy is a great word for this wine, because it's got those ripe berry flavors, but it's also juicy like a beautiful ass. Sweet and graceful and thick with good things to hold onto, this is a wine to make mistakes with. Like eating a 1-lb steak alone on a Saturday night. Or, like, sex stuff. Or like, other youthful type escapades that don't involve wearing sweatpants because I'm not wearing sweatpants at all.

Yes I had a date tonight.

The date just ended early:

PS that absolutely is an MNDR bumper sticker on my wine glass. I met her once and she is as awesome as her music. Check her out:

Cheers, youth!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wine + popcorn + thoughts on being special

"Reserva." It sounds classy, but is it? In the case of Herederos Del Marques De Riscal 2006 Rioja Reserva, it is indeed. Reserva traditionally means that the best grapes were held back for wine aged in oak barrels. It comes from a time when oak was expensive, and was only worth it for the best wine. Now, Reserva still means that in Spain, Italy and Washington state, but everywhere else is just trying to make themselves feel classy.

And I get that. After all, I was more willing to splurge on a bottle of Reserva (not to mention it has gold casing and gold is my favorite color). Other tricks are often employed to class it up. A fancy name, a confusing label, the word "chateau" (which could be an outhouse as long as wine is made there). The more intimidating a wine, the more we'll spend on it. And the less likely we'll be to come out and say so when we don't like it. This is the same reason why my being a cheap, friendly date gets me pretty much nowhere.

But this wine really does kick ass. This is earthy, almost filthy, sexy and tart and complex. It's cherry and cocoa mud wrestling raspberry and cola and leaves. And I served it up with a perfect, utterly classy pairing...

I get that that wasn't a big reveal because of the title. I just want you to know that I get that. Yeah, it's popcorn! Popcorn is great with wine. Whether it's the dirty, sexy aroma of this Rioja Reserva, a jammy Cote du Rhone or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, popcorn is the cheese of the carb world: it makes wines taste awesome by bringing out their best.

Salt enhances flavors. And while that can include alcohol and the texture of the tannins, the oil and the crunch of the popcorn will negate that. In fact, the same chemical used to make butter flavor is the byproduct of malolactic fermentation, a chemical process often used in winemaking. So to amp up the flavor of your fancy wine, treat yourself special. Have it with popcorn.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wine + vocals

It's time for wine and The Voice, y'all! You can change who you are, y'all. I kind of want to see Spring Breakers again, y'all. But first, cheers, Carson!

If you've never seen The Voice, you should remedy that. I used to doubt singing competition shows until that fateful Superbowl when The Voice followed the game and everything changed.

This show has So. Many. Dreams. Every one of these people is living their dream before your very eyes. The coaches are positive and enthusiastic and funny. And the best thing about it is that the auditions are blind. The coaches don't get to see who the singers are before committing to coaching them. This leads to ugly people getting opportunities in entertainment and a lot of comments like, "how are you not a girl?" and polite versions of "wait, you're white?" Dreams come true left and right and everybody gets free Starbucks.

This amazing display of dreams got me thinking about blind tastings. Blind tastings with guessing are a badge of honor for proper sommeliers, but can be useful for the casual wine drinker as well. And no wine benefits more from a blind tasting than Chardonnay.

Chardonnay has a bad reputation, and that's not entirely fair. Sure, a lot of grandmas drink it and ok, oak gets used a lot, but like the red-headed stepchild of reds, Merlot, there are some real gems being overlooked because of prejudice.

Most people who don't like Chardonnay, myself included, just don't like the heavy oak used. But the only reason oak is used so often in Chardonnay is that its relative neutrality led it to be known as the winemaker's grape. Furthermore, when people started oaking Chardonnay, it was hugely popular. It's only recently that the oak flavors, especially combined with two other common winemaking practices, lees ageing (which gives a toasty, biscuity flavor) and malolactic fermentation (which lends a creamy mouthfeel and a buttery aroma), have become unpopular. It used to be Chardonnay was prized for allowing these winemaking qualities to stand out. Now most prefer no oak or oak they can't detect because an aromatic grape was used.

But unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnays are out there and they can be great. Shelby Ledgerwood gave us one for our final exam and we all thought it was Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Similarly, oak can be used and detectable in other whites, such as the 2011 Le Ferme Julien Blanc, which my charming friend Kate served last night, without taking over the flavor of the wine entirely.

A blend of 5 grapes, 10% of this wine is oaked with lees ageing and 90% is unoaked. It gives just a hint of the flavor but  doesn't overwhelm (unlike Carson Daly's desire to be part of every family that walks into the auditions. Watch him. It's amazing. Dude forces so many hugs). It offers citrus and a drop of honey on the nose with a little nuttiness. Pair it with chicken or salad, but don't be afraid to nibble a lemon cupcake alongside it like we did.

So push your button for a Chardonny. Experiment with a lightly oaked white. Throw a blind tasting blind auditions party (ok this is happening). You could end up achieving your wildest dream. Or just getting tipsy while Adam Levine flirts with a pregnant Shakira. Which literally happens. Seriously, how are you not watching this show?

Kate is a person with whom I would like to Freaky Friday.