Wine Wars


A Glass of Red Wine

A Glass of Red Wine

Where does the best wine come from?

Wine lovers are passionate people. If you doubt this, simply ask a devotee or two the question above. Be prepared, however. The answers are sure to be varied, entertaining and (hopefully) enlightening.

At some point, an element of regional pride may creep into the conversation. For example:  “I KNOW the best wines come from my hometown!”

Actually, I am fairly certain that some of the best wines DO come from my hometown of Walla Walla, Washington.  By way of evidence, I point to the list of top 100 wines published every year by Wine Spectator Magazine.*

Pick any year and scroll down the page. You are almost certain to find one or two (or more) Walla Walla wines featured.  Okay, okay enough of this; see what I mean about wine lovers being passionate?

Anyway, let’s step back from the debate for a moment and offer up some objectivity by way of a brief history lesson.

The “common” grape

Fine wines are made from a particular species of grape known as Vitis vinifera. Wild varieties of Vitis vinifera are believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, central European, and southwestern Asian regions. Nowadays, Vitis vinifera grapes are cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

The earliest evidence of winemaking practices can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as in Roman and Greek texts. In ancient times, wine grape cultivation and winemaking seems to have been primarily reserved for the ruling class.

Roots of modern winemaking

During the European Renaissance (14th to 16th centuries) wine grape cultivation and wine-making began a shift from traditional methods to more scientific ones.  As European countries (notably France, Italy and Spain) began to colonize the world, they took their grapes and wines with them. Because of this, an important distinction arose between the New World (the colonies) and the Old World (the colonizers).

Old World vs. New World

Why is the distinction between Old World and New World wines important? There are several reasons. Let’s talk about a few of them…

Regulation

Winemakers in Old World countries have been making wine the same way for centuries. This is because of restrictions placed upon them by governmental and/or other supervisory organizations. On the one hand, this regulation assures a continuation of heritage and tradition. On the other hand it leaves little room for variety or experimentation.

True to the pioneering spirit, New World winemakers are afforded more freedom to follow their own concept for a particular vintage. It is also often easier for New World winemakers to incorporate the newest discoveries, techniques and advances in technology into their wine-making process.

One of the ways in which New World does follow Old is by way of a system of Appellation. The word “appellation” comes from the French verb “appeler.” It means ‘to call or name.”

Appellations are used to identify the particular source of grapes used in wine. Usually, it is a legally defined geographic region, but can also require other specifications as well. Each country has its own rules for bestowing Appellation status.

Of course, Old World Appellations have been in place for centuries. New World appellations are still being granted.

I remember when our Walla Walla Valley gained this distinction. The year was 1984 and, at that time, there were really only a handful of wineries and vineyards in the area. My sister-in-law had been tasked with helping to fill out the AVA paperwork. AVA stands for American Viticultural Area.

Although we were a fairly small “band of believers,” it was still very exciting when we got word the Walla Walla Valley Appellation had been recognized. Somehow we knew that our little valley was destined for great things in the world of wine. (Oops! There is that passion thing again.)

Vive la difference!

To be sure, there is no lack of variety among Old World wines. With such rich histories and diversity of language and culture, how could there not be? In addition to stricter regulation, however, there are other factors to consider when discussing the topic of New World wines vs. Old World wines.

In my next post I would like to delve into the concept of “Terroir,” (another word borrowed from the French).

Until then, try not to let your passion get the better of you!

Ciao for now,

Ron

* http://top100.winespectator.com/lists/

(About the writer: In the late 1970’s, Ron Hendricks partnered with his father and brother to establish Seven Hills Vineyards, the first commercial vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley Appellation. This small region in the southeast corner of Washington State regularly produces world class, award-winning wines. Ron is an author, teacher and wine lover who has lived in China since 2004.)

 

 

A Canton Christmas


901056549718538I usually order a tall brewed coffee at my neighborhood Starbucks. It’s the cheapest drink on the menu. Today, in honor of the holiday season, I’ve ordered a nutmeg latte. While I wait for my beverage, I hum along with the Muzak. “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Although it never snows in Guangzhou, I could just as easily be standing in line in downtown Seattle.

Coffee and Christmas have come to China in a big way. My nutmeg latte, incidentally, costs 32 RMB which is about $5.25 at current exchange rates. Make that coffee, Christmas and capitalism. In my neighborhood alone I can choose from a half dozen coffee shops. And Christmas decorations – don’t get me started!

I have a snapshot of workers erecting a Merry Christmas sign above the entry to our local mall. It’s dated October 25th, six days before Halloween and exactly two whole months before Christmas. Of course, Christmas is not a government holiday so there is no time off from work. But that does not seem to impede the commercial possibilities.

For me, Christmas is about traditions – family, friends, food and festivities- and, of course, there is the religious tradition as well. The first four traditions can be found in abundance during Chinese Spring Festival, which falls on January 28th, 2017. Religious tradition can also be found in China, although in lesser amounts.

My first year in China (2004) I attended a Chinese Catholic mass with a colleague on a cold Christmas Eve. We were in Jiangxi Province at the time; in a city that had a rather scarce supply of laowai (foreigners). Our plan was to slip quietly into the back row, listen for a while and then slip out as quietly as we came in. That was our plan.

Our plan changed dramatically, however, when the priest glanced up from his text and noticed two odd strangers sitting in the back. He instantly ordered two chairs be brought down front. You would have thought we were two of the three Magi as we sheepishly walked down the center aisle. The congregation stood up and began to applaud – so much for slipping out quietly!

 

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Facebook is so “last decade!”


Ron's Blog

Smartphone Seniors Smartphone Seniors

300 Million People Use WeChat To Text With Strangers, But Most Americans Probably Haven’t Heard Of It

WeChat is a multipurpose messaging app made by Chinese Internet portal company Tencent. The app’s popularity is soaring overseas. WeChat launched in October 2010 and had about 5 million users by May 2011. By January 2013, it had exploded to 300 million users, according to Tech In Asia.

The app has a startling array of features. Users can make video calls and hold live chats with friends, host group chats, scan for strangers to talk to nearby, and so much more. Rumors have been circulating that the app could gain a new shopping feature in the future too, which could be a huge potential revenue generator for Tencent. (more)

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National Chocolate Day


Ron's Blog

Chocolate Rose Chocolate Rose

The list of U.S. federal holidays seems a rather odd assortment. It appears to be mostly about finding a politically correct excuse for a day off with pay. The list is as follows: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Junior Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first one and the last two seem to be the only legitimate holidays to my way of thinking.

As a kid, I used to look forward to the start of the “holiday season.” In my mind, the first big holiday was Halloween, followed about a month later by Thanksgiving, and then a month after that was Christmas. It was a glorious stretch of freedom from school, combined with presents, combined with all sorts of sweet things for the tummy. By the time New Year’s Day rolled around we actually looked forward…

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Happy Thanksgiving – Don’t Forget the Pie Plant!


Grandma's Rhubarb Pie

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Consider the humble pie-plant. That’s what rhubarb is sometimes called.  Like tomatoes, it belongs to a small group of identity-challenged fruits, I mean vegetables, I mean fruits. Apparently rhubarb got into some legal difficulties in New York back in 1947 and had to go to court to prove its fruitishness.

Rhubarb is a card-carrying member of the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. Now doesn’t that make your mouth water? It’s leaves are toxic and it’s roots are perennial. It’s green-to-reddish stalks, however, are the stuff of childhood memories. At least the stuff of my childhood memories.

My grandpa on my mother’s side was an insurance salesman. But he spent all his free time in his beloved garden. Now when I say garden I mean backyard farm. He was a beekeeper and organic hippie without the beads and long hair. He was cool and didn’t even know it. Nor did I at the time. Rhubarb reminds me of him.

Apparently there is something called the Rhubarb Triangle in Jolly Olde England. If you have nothing better to do, look it up. No ships have been reported missing, however local residents apparently harvest rhubarb stalks by candlelight. Are they Rhubarbarians? Nobody knows for sure.

My sister-in-law compiled a family cookbook a few years ago. On page 47 is a recipe for Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie. The recipe actually came from an old newspaper clipping my mother found. Although it calls for a cup and a half of sugar, it’s not a big deal because the recipe was written back in the days when sugar was good for you.

Ingredients:

2 cups diced rhubarb (more or less)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 ½ cup sugar

Directions:

Put rhubarb in unbaked pie shell. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over rhubarb. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and 40 additional minutes at 375 degrees. Pie will begin to set up as it finishes baking.

Sister-in-law Becky adds this note: This easy recipe makes a very rich dessert. I have often used other fruit such as blackberries, raspberries or peaches. It’s especially good when made with the first rhubarb from the garden in early Spring.

Spring is still a long way off, but don’t let that stop you. Rhubarb, with it’s cheerful shades of red and green is also a Christmas fruit. Or vegetable.

How To Interpret Dreams


Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

Did they have pepperoni pizza in ancient Egypt? Was Pharaoh’s dream about the seven fat cows and the seven skinny cows the result of a late night snack, or something more meaningful? Joseph’s take on it was that “interpretations belong to God.” (Genesis 40:8).

We spend a third of our life in slumber. A good part of that time we spend in dreamland. Westerners have a habit of approaching life from a scientific, analytical viewpoint; we’re naturally suspicious of mystic mumbo-jumbo. In contrast, other cultures have no problem jumping in with both feet.

For the sake of balance, let’s just take the position that dreams are interesting… weird, but interesting. Here are some steps you can follow if you want to do your own dream study.

Step 1

Get a notebook and put it by your bed. This is going to be your dream diary. Since we’ve already agreed that dreams are weird, you should take whatever steps necessary to protect your privacy. Enough said.

Step 2

Before going to sleep, you should write down a summary of the day’s events. You should also write down anything you’d like to “work on” during the night. You know – string theory, world peace – stuff like that. Or maybe you just need a seven letter word for “rash.”

Step 3

If you wake up in the middle of the night, note the time and what you were dreaming. You might also like to make a note to fix that leaky faucet.

Step 4

When you wake in the morning write down everything you can remember about any dreams you may have had. Then call the plumber.

Step 5

Don’t rush into dream interpretation just yet. You’ll need to get used to this routine and collect sufficient “data.” (Even though I’m taking a light-hearted tone, I think this is actually pretty important stuff.)

Step 6

There’s a scientific principle that states you cannot observe anything in nature without changing it. In this case, that’s a good thing. You should start to remember more and more of your dream life.

Step 7

Once you’ve collected a couple of weeks worth of data, it’s time for phase two. Read over what you’ve written. Look for patterns, insights and connections between your dream time and your awake time.

Although there’s a wealth of material available on the subject of dream interpretation, steer clear of it at this point. The question is “what do YOU think your dreams are trying to tell you?”

Step 8

As much as possible, share your experiences with those who are closest to you. Ask them for ideas. And yes, it’s okay now to go to the Internet, library and (if you must) your local psychic. If you’re really concerned, make an appointment with your doctor.

Tips and warnings

Most of us probably don’t get the quantity or quality of sleep we need. Now is the time to do something about it. Clean your bedroom, put fresh sheets on your bed, flip the mattress. (Not necessarily in that order.)

How much caffeine do you consume in a day? If you think it may be too much, cut it out altogether for a short period and see if that affects your sleep or your dreams.

Diet and exercise have a profound effect on sleep and dreams. I guess you knew that already, huh?

This is enough for one article, so good luck with your study and, of course, sweet dreams!

What’s an Agglomeration?


Map of China

Map of China

I’ve been living and working in China for nearly ten years – eight of those in Guangzhou. I’m always a bit bemused, however, by the mystified reactions from former classmates, friends and even family when I tell them where I live.

 
Historically, this area has been known as Canton, which probably accounts for some of the confusion. However, there really is no excuse for not being more informed. After all, the Guangzhou agglomeration is the world’s second largest*. Only the Tokyo agglomeration is larger.

 
What’s an agglomeration? It’s easier to describe than define. The Guangzhou agglomeration has a population of some 32,300,000 people. This area includes the Northern Pearl River Delta, Dongguan, Foshan, Jiangmen and Zhongshan. The Tokyo agglomeration** has an estimated population of 34,900,000.

*Source: http://www.citypopulation.de/world/Agglomerations.html
**The Tokyo agglomeration includes Yokohama, Kawasaki and Saitama.

Got Hot Pot?


Hot Pot is especially popular in China during the winter months.

China Bride Blog

Tsingtao Beer Tsingtao Beer

The other day I was reading something called a “book.” While reading this book, I stumbled across an interesting factoid. (All I have time for anymore-just the factoids, ma’am.) The author was of the opinion that Peking Man was the first hominid to use fire. We know this because we have his left molar in a box somewhere.

Which got me to thinking. If there is a Peking Man, shouldn’t there also be a Peking Woman? I wonder what kind of recipes she has to share? I’m pretty sure Peking Man was too busy at the hunting and gathering office to actually cook.

So I got a copy of the Chinese Telephone Book and started looking. It took a long time as you can well imagine. I did find a listing for Peking Tom, but the number was disconnected.

I searched and searched. But alas, could not find…

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Throwback Thursday: The Sin City Singers!


The Sin City Singers - 1970

The Sin City Singers – 1970

My high school folk group from left to right: Dan Judd, Kevin Stephens, Wes Winn, Ron Hendricks and Jasper Winn. In 1971, Kevin and Jasper had gone off to college, so we were joined by Gary Knox. Here we all are in a photo from 2004 at the dedication concert for the Jack Williams Auditorium. Dan, Gary, Ron, Jasper, Kevin and Wes!

Sin City Singers 2004

Sin City Singers – 2004

Mr. Williams was our beloved Mac-Hi Choir Director, Counselor and Teacher.