Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sparkling Wine Tasting Group

Some say the key to longevity is having good friends, eating good food, and of course, drinking good wine. I tend to agree and that is why I’ve enjoyed being part of my wine tasting group for so long. Our first tasting took place seventeen years ago while casually relaxing on a friend’s porch here in Healdsburg. We had each brought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and we discussed the wines while eating crackers. Though our tastings have become more elaborate over the years with the introduction of blind tastings and a full pot luck dinner, I’m happy to say that we still meet several times a year.
Recently, I hosted our group’s annual sparkling wine tasting. After we agreed on the the date of the party, I planned the evening’s festivities including the dish I would make and the wine I would serve. Once the food was purchased, the house cleaned, the table set, and two rosemary chickens were roasting side by side in the oven on a bed of potatoes, I relaxed as my guests arrived with smiling faces, fresh bread, aged cheeses, green salads, dessert, and of course, a bottle of sparkling wine each.
Bread was broken and updates on family and friends were shared along with recent adventures or mishaps. Additional still wines were opened by two wine makers in our group seeking comments on their latest release. I’ve been saving an interesting bottle I recently found in my wine cellar (coat closet) that’s ready to drink, so I opened it also.
After I caught up with each of my guests and made a couple rounds of the cheeses and still wines, I hid away in the kitchen wrapping each bottle of sparkling wine in a paper bag and numbered them for identification. This was a blind tasting after all, and even I tried not to look at the wine label while wrapping each bottle. Then I herded everyone to the dinning room table where glasses and note pads had been pre-arranged.

A row of six glasses, the equivalent to the number of wines being poured, was waiting at each place sitting. The wines were then passed around and poured in order. The chattering group of us settled and became quiet as we got down to business. Music that was once muffled by conversation was then recognizable above the clinking of glasses. Notes were taken, the wines ranked, and when each of us was done exploring the wines, we discussed them one by one.
Once our conversation was exhausted, we unveiled each wine by ranking, from the bottom to top of the list. “Aaahhhs,” “ooohhhhs,” and “huummms” were uttered, expressions of surprise and curiosity made as the bottles were revealed.
Then the scent of roasted poultry called me into the kitchen and we all prepared for dinner. Out of the oven came the two roasted rosemary chickens and potatoes, the salad was tossed, and more bread brought to the table. The feast was served and each of us chose from the remaining wines an accompaniment to his or her meal.
Clearing the table, we finished with dessert, coffee and conversation well into the night.
After saying farewell to the last departing guest, the dishes were rinsed and put into the washer. Then my wife and I relaxed in the afterglow of a great evening of friends, food, and fun.
(*Note- I started this drawing at the party but due to the fact I was hosting as well as had been tasting wine, I finished it up the sketch with a photo)

Toad Hollow Tasting Room

Once a year I host a sparkling wine tasting at my house and each person attending, including myself, must bring a bottle to the party. Half the fun of attending a wine tasting is making one’s wine selection, whether it be from a wine shop or tasting room. But Healdsburg is short on sparkling wine producers, and since I’ve been self-limited to my bike these days, I had to choose something nearby.
As I pulled my bike out of the garage, I noticed a bigger problem—a nearly flat tire. I didn’t even have a patch kit to fix it. Since it appeared to be a slow leak, I decided to take a chance, and after pumping up my tire, headed toward town. On the way, I remembered Toad Hollow Winery has a couple sparking wines and their tasting room is right off the square.
At my first stop—Spoke Folk Bike Shop—I purchased a tire patch kit, then rode the few blocks to Toad Hollow tasting room, parking against a tree. Standing away from my bike, I thought the view would make a good sketch, and standing as far back as possible on the sidewalk without stepping into the street, I began to draw. Soon after I finished blocking in the larger shapes, Jim Costa, the tasting room manager, came out to offer me a chair.
After adding watercolor to finish the sketch, I entered the tasting room, where a small group stood at the bar, and a young couple looked through shelves of merchandise at the back wall. Checking the day’s tasting menu, I learned luck was with me–I’d get to taste two sparkling wines.
The first was NV Amplexus Brut, a French wine produced in the Crémant style. This wine is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Mauzac, and Chenin Blanc grapes. I found it pleasing, with notes of peach and lemon balancing on toasty aromas of yeast.
The second wine, NV Risque, tasted fruitier than the Amplexus and reminded me of apple cider, pears, and honey. A medium sweet wine, it’s made entirely from the Mauzac grape using the Méthode Ancestrale, an unusual technique that predates the Méthode Champagne. It also has less carbonation and alcohol than the Amplexus. I enjoyed both wines, but since my preference leans towards dryer, or brut sparkling wines, I purchased a bottle of Amplexus for the party.
Slipping the wine into my backpack, I noticed my tire was underinflated, so I sped home. As I pulled up at my house, my back tire was now flattening against the pavement. I sighed with relief at having made it home, my tire intact, and with a good bottle of sparkling wine in hand.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Elevation 66

A brew and drawing at Elevation 66

What could be better than testing a new brew while out sketching? We visited Ranch Market 99 last week,  Elevation 66 this week, what's next, maybe Butterfly Restaurant on Pier 33? 
I had some trouble with with perspective and positioning — the bar guy was actually directly in front of the cash register, but somehow he ended up on the other side of it! Then my pen ran dry, so I had to finish it at home. The big tanks of ale are really shiny, just gleaming clean and new - maybe I'll capture it next time. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 34th World Wide Sketchcrawl in Healdsburg

 Yesterday marked the 34th World Wide Sketchcrawl, an event that happens about every other month. What is Sketchcrawl, you ask? In 2006, Pixar artist Enrico Casarosa started the group in San Francisco, with the idea that artists worldwide might spend a Sketchcrawl day in kind of a pubcrawl like fashion, only sketching rather than drinking. Artists gather at a designated location, then go off in the direction of their choice to sketch what interests them. After a few hours, each member of the group returns to the meeting place to share their sketches with the other artists.
At 10am last Saturday, about a dozen sketch artists met at the Gazebo in Healdsburg’s plaza. We then scattered around town to sketch. My first drawing was of the northeast corner of the Plaza, where the day workers congregate in hopes of finding work. But it wasn’t long before scattered showers and cold weather pushed me indoors. My sketch friend Phil and I decided to head over to Moustache, a cupcake and coffee shop, for Double Barrel Americano coffees and cupcakes. Delicious!
Two hours passed in the blink of an eye and we hurried back to the Gazebo to re-congregate with the group. Mingling once again, this time we shared our mornings’ sketches. I thoroughly enjoyed this event, despite the fickle weather, made some new friends, and delighted in seeing other artists work.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lunar New Year at 99 Ranch Market

Happy Lunar New Year decorations at 99 Ranch Market
The shoppers at Ranch 99 Chinese supermarket were in festive spirits and the store was decked out in red and gold for Lunar New Year. There were red envelopes, red lanterns, brilliant green Narcissus in fuchsia foil wrappers, special treats in red and gold boxes, and bunches of simulated fire-crackers hanging from stop-sign shaped objects that said something in Chinese, but probably not “Stop.”
Chuckle Fish and Mullet on Ice
Even though I was tired at the end of the evening, I couldn’t resist drawing the fresh fish on ice when I saw their names: Chuckle Fish and Mullets. I wonder what Chuckle Fish is in Chinese?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

China Camp

State park in Marin County, California. A Chinese shrimp-fishing village thrived on this site in the 1880s. Nearly 500 people, originally from Canton, China, lived in the village. In its heyday, there were three general stores, a marine supply store and a barber shop.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Oldie But Goodie

My neighbor's new (old) car
I was inspired to draw this because of the way the bright midday light was glowing on my across-the-street neighbor's new old car and the huge crows' nest in the tree. I sketched and painted from the little porch off my kitchen on the side of my house. More about the sketch on my blog, JanasJournal.

Sonoma California