Saturday, December 29, 2012

Am I Back?

The question is directed at me, not at you, if there are any of you right now.

Yeah, it's been a long while. This week, I finished my latest book (my fourth). This one is about the rise and fall of a Finger Lakes winery that once ranked 6th in the domestic winery pantheon. It is important to big wineries that we know where they fall in the ranking. I have no idea why such a thing is important, but it is to them--they boast endlessly about their ranking, provided it's in the top ten.

This book took me more than two years to complete. It also took me on the road a few times, to the West Coast and the South. I had to find some people I needed to interview. It's a good thing I came up with the idea for this book when I did--many of the people involved are up there in years.

Before I got into the wine business I was in the business of creating and producing shows for corporations; mostly sales, new product intro, or promotional events. We took shows from initial design to production to presentation in what often took months to complete. These were big events in hotels and in theaters. The one thing that I could count on after every show was what we called post-show depression--a crushing sense that life or a piece of it had just come to a crashing halt.

When I left that business I also left post-show depression behind--until this week. This particular book was research-heavy and quite detailed. For more than two years, when I wasn't traveling my daily routine had me at the keyboard right after breakfast and the treadmill, until lunch time. I walked the dog, ate lunch, went downtown to get my mail from the PO Box and run whatever other errands I had to run, and returned to the keyboard for the remainder of the day.

All of a sudden, I have no set daily routine, at least not until I start another book, if I ever do. There are moments when I find myself wondering what to do next, and the terrible feeling of going back to the book--again--to do a few edits sucks me in if I am not careful. Art is the pursuit of perfection. An artwork is really never finished because it is rarely perfect.

Whatever it was that caused me to get back to the blog certainly hasn't given me much to say. I suppose I could say something nasty and snarky about a certain Canadian wine writer who made the wine news earlier this month, but I won't. I took part--minutely--in a little bashing on the HoseMaster's blog, but I felt unclean after that. It's too easy to type out snark and then go smugly on our way to doing what we normally do, much of which I am sure many others will find equally snark worthy as well. Sometimes, our little wine world is like a sandbox or schoolyard where we are challenged to get along but often fail the test.

Some wine bloggers simply get on my nerves with their opinions; some make me laugh with their comedic talent; some make me want to join the NRA for cover so that I can take them out. In fact, the Internet could easily be classified as one big snark fest.

Am I rambling?

Yes, I am.

Am I back?

Who the hell knows?

Friday, March 2, 2012

'tis the season

Trite, perhaps, but it’s true that the simple things are the real things to treasure.

Here at Keuka Lake, I am inland, and even though it is a lake, you can’t get commercial fish from it—it’s a law!

What’s a fellow to do who was raised in a coastal city, has southern Italian blood, and can’t do without simple seafood?

What I do is drive every Friday 60 miles, to Ithaca, New York, to get my fix at Wegmens grocery, where seafood and other fishes comes from all over: Portuguese sardines, bronzini, whiting, real wild salmon (in season), cockles, oysters.

Now, it is the season for one water-borne simple fish that does not come from the sea, which reminds me of a story.

Last year, when the season rolled in, I noticed that none of my favorite February/March delicacy could be had at Wegmans. When I asked the seafood department lady what gives, she said the store had stopped carrying it because it has to be super fresh and we are so far inland from the delivery point.

I felt truly bad about it, but I had to tell the woman that this particular delicacy comes from a large river fish with great teeth that spawns at this time of year upstream, beginning in the eastern portion of the Southern states and continuing north via East Coast rivers, and that includes the Hudson River, which is only 4 hours east of Ithaca by car.

I am talking about shad roe, that reddish-brown sack of shad eggs that, along with the Maryland blue crab should have been counted as one of the world’s wonders.

Here’s how to prepare it: light dusting of flour with some crushed pepper; then, sauté in olive oil with garlic and Meyer lemon (I used to use butter and a bacon strip, but since prostate cancer, I’ve been eating less saturated fats—that’s what the information says to do).

You don’t want to overcook shad roe or it will be dry and taste like the collar of a flight jacket. Inside that sack are eggs, after all. They need to be tender and bursting with river-fishy richness.

Which wine would I serve with shad roe?

After many years of experimenting, I have settled on Cabernet Franc—not the Bordeaux style, but the Loire style. Shad roe is super fatty, requiring an acidic bite in the wine; it is also quite rich in a gamey way, requiring red not white to stand up to it.

Speaking of wine: I have one more racking to go before I decide whether I will filter the Gewurztraminer and Riesling or let them clarify themselves before bottling. If I do that, the Gewurztraminer being relatively dry is not much risk, but with the Riesling measuring beyond 1% residual sugar, it is a risk not to filter, as it can ferment again when spring rolls in. Instead of filtering, I can add potassium sorbate to prevent fermentation, but I don’t like to add that stuff—or any stuff—to my wine. Besides, that stuff makes wine taste like lemon Life Savers.

What to do?

What would you do?

Oh well, not to worry. I have shad roe to keep me going for two or three more weeks before the fish move farther north. A filtering decision can wait.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
March 2012. All rights reserved.