Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wine for Why I Can't See the Movie Contagion, Part One

I am, admittedly, a bit of a clean freak. Especially when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens. I have gotten a bit of a reputation at work, where I am constantly wiping down liquer bottles and spraying Windex on the bar.

One of my co-workers has told me that I can't see the movie Contagion because I will wind up walking around in a plastic bubble, or refusing to leave my house.

At the very least, I told him, I'm going to start spraying everyone who approaches me with Lysol.

I wasn't always so clean. In high school, I went through a dirty phase where my room was a mini-dump. It wasn't full of dirty food-plates or bugs or anything, but rather piled ankle-deep with clothes and magazines.

When friends came over, rather than actually clean up, I simply threw my bedspread over the offending pile, and hoped no one would notice.

Unfortunately, what actually happened was that one of my friends came running into my room, and the moment her foot hit that bedspread, which covered a slippery pile of magazines and catalogues, she went flying. It was like she was on a slip and slide, only instead of sliding on a film of water, she instead went sailing on a sea of Seventeen Magazines and J-Crew catalogues.

I would like to say that that moment caused me enough embarrassment to force me to finally clean up my room, but I'm not sure it did. My mother would probably remember.

All I know is that my parents actually had to fumigate my room when I left for college. It was that bad.

When I moved to Los Angeles, my apartment was kept clean, but my car became the repository for all things paper and discarded. Again, there were no dirty food or drink containers, but the back seat filled almost to the window with newspapers, magazines, school notes and papers I no longer needed, empty shopping bags and who knows what else.

A guy I was dating got in my car for the first time, looked in the backseat, and said "You know, if I'd seen that first, I'm not sure I ever would have gone out with you."

The exterior of the car didn't fare much better. From the time I left Boston with my friend Maria, and drove the car cross-country, to the time I sold it 4 years later, I didn't wash it. Not once.

I lived in a neighborhood with abundant street parking, and so that car sat outside, all year, under trees, covered in bird poop and pollen.

Only when I was about to sell it did I finally wash it, and my sister and i took it to a carwash and watched as it went through the jets of soap and water, and watched as the guys who buff and dry the cars actually worked on it and laughed. Actually laughed at how dirty it was, even after the washing.

The paint had gone from a bright, shiny maroon, to a dull version of the same color. It had certainly lost its luster. But that car had bigger problems: it would only go about 45 mph on the freeway before the engine light would come on (25 mph if I was driving uphill); the windshield wipers went on one day and wouldn't go off; and the passenger side window rolled down and then steadfastly refused to roll back up. So honestly, i didn't feel too bad that I had neglected to wash it.

I fear this post is getting too long, so I will leave off here for today and continue next week with part two: the clean streak begins.

My wine for why I can't see the movie Contagion, Part I is a 2005 Domaine Drouhin "Laurene" Pinot Noir from Oregon. We carry this particular wine by the half-bottle at the restaurant, but if you can't find this vintage, i highly recommend you try any of their Pinots.

The Drouhin family lives and makes wine both in the Dundee Hills of Oregon and Beaune, France, in Burgundy. Their Oregon Pinots balance beautifully the fruitiness of Oregon with the earth and slightly more reserved character of a Burgundy. The 2005 is quite rich, but still bright with acidity, fruit and spice.

Personally, I also really like that all of the Drouhin wines are made by Veronique Drouhin, one of the small number of female winemakers out there.

They have a wonderful website for Domaine Drouhin Oregon, where you can get info about the family, the estate vines and the wines themselves. I highly encourage you to try one.

Just remember to wash your hands first.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wine for Our Puppy-Child

The longer that we have Tuco, the more it seems to me that the experience of having a dog from the time he's a young puppy really is very similar to that of raising a child.

Not just in the amount of time and energy they require, but also in the way in which both force us as adults to re-experience the world with them, go through a whole variety of firsts and milestones with them: first car-ride, first bath, first night alone in his crate, first trip to the doctor/vet, first shots, first day of kindergarten, first time away from Mom and Dad.

All the experiences we take for granted and no longer even think about, suddenly illuminated as new, confusing, exciting.

We gave Tuco a baby carrot to eat the other day, and he had no idea what to make of it. He ran around it, he sniffed at it, he picked it up in his mouth and dropped it. Steve finally went over to him with a baby carrot of his own, and showed Tuco that what he did with it was to bite it in half. Tuco immediately did the same. And there is was...yum...carrot...a whole new thing to eat.

We also have begun taking him to the beach. So many new smells and sensations that I no longer notice half the time. To me now, the beach is a whole entity, one solid concept. But watching him at the beach, I suddenly saw again all of the parts that make up the whole: the sand, and how different that feels to stand on than sidewalk or grass; the bits of shell that litter the sand, along with all of the different pebbles, all of those will smell different to Tuco; the bits of seaweed everywhere; the smell, sound and feel of the water itself.

Then there was the surprise on his face when the cold water rushed over his paws; the foam on the surface of the water which he tried to eat, the feeling of the sand sliding away underfoot as he waded deeper into the water; that sense of excitement and fear at the force of a wave; and the accomplishment of pulling a ball out of the water and bringing it back.

Just like kids, puppies lose their teeth, and go through adolescence. Tuco is just entering this stage of his development, and already we see moments of willfulness (why should I sit, Mom?), and bossiness (I want my food! I want to go out and play! I want to walk here, I don't want to walk there. Sine i don't want to walk there, I will lie down in the middle of the sidewalk. Go ahead...drag me.).

Just like with kids, we as parents have to introduce them to the world: how we walk down the street, how we meet other people and dogs, where we poop and pee and where we don't; how we behave when someone enters our home.

Just like parents of actual children, Steve and I are watching as Tuco's natural talents and abilities come to the fore. He is part Border Collie, a herding dog, and in the last few weeks, that herding instinct has made itself known to all of us.

He doesn't even know why he's doing it, but when we're in the dog park together, and another dog runs by, or can be seen running in the distance, Tuco takes off after him, swinging in a wide arc, always staying a certain distance behind, steering the other dog one way and another.

And can he run. He flies. He's only 7 months, and already he is faster than just about every other dog in the park. And it is an absolute joy to watch him run. Because you can see that he was made to do it, you can see that when he is running he is exhilarated, and free, and when Steve and I watch him, I think we then feel some of those things, too.

Finally, there are those lovely, quiet together moments. Tuco hangs out in the kitchen with me while I cook. And it's not that he's hovering by me, waiting for scraps, because he never gets any.

He just lies on his mat quietly, sometimes watching me, sometimes sleeping. He just wants to keep me company. And it reminds me of when I lived at home, I liked nothing more than sitting with my mother in the kitchen while she made dinner; sometimes I was helping, sometimes just telling her about my day.

Granted, Tuco is not chatting with me about his day, but it is that same experience of togetherness, of sharing, that makes me think of my mother, and makes me feel oddly comforted.

I don't mean to suggest that having a dog is exactly like having a baby, but it strikes me that there are a lot of similarities, more than I ever imagined, and i must say I am delighted by it.

My wine for our puppy-child is not an individual wine but rather a category: Cremant d'Alsace from Alsace, in northeastern France.

These are sparkling wines often made predominantly from the Pinot Blanc grape, and they offer an absolutely delicious and less expensive alternative to Champagne. While they may not have the finesse and richness of Champagne, they are bright, crisp and refreshing, as well as easy to drink and extremely food friendly.

Try a Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut or Rose Brut. Price ranges from $13-$28 a bottle.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wine for Doggie Doo

Dealing with any baby naturally entails a lot of encounters with matter of the fecal variety. Babies poop. A lot, I've heard.

So it is with puppies. It is not so much the number of poops our beloved Tuco does per day as it is the quantity of matter per poop. We are literally talking piles of poop. For a rather small 30-pound dog, he must generate his own body weight in poop every day.

And these are not what I would consider small-dog bowel movements; one such poop looked like it should have emerged from a 1200 pound walrus. Passers-by looked at us as if to say, "wow, that's one big turd!"

The euphamism "building a log cabin", is not just a catchy phrase. He seriously could be living in a poop-house of his own making by now.

Then there is the whole business of his being afraid of his own poop. I think we have finally cracked this mystery: sticks and mulch. In his poop.

We cannot seem, no matter how hard we try, to make him not eat every stick and piece of mulch he can find. This wouldn't be such a problem if not for the fact that these items don't digest in his tummy. They do, in fact, pass right through. Literally, you can see them right there in his poops, whole hunks of sticks and mulch.

Those bits must hurt like hell coming out, so I can hardly blame him for trying to get as far away from them as he can.

While dealing with doggie poop is not always fun, dealing with baby poop is not much better. People will comment that the advantage babies have over dogs is that they eventually deal with their own poop, while dogs pretty much leave their owners grabbing handfuls of the stuff many times a day for the next 15-18 years. And this is unfortunately true.

However, I must say that by far the most terrifying poop encounter I have ever had was with an infant for whom I was babysitting.

I was in my early twenties, and the baby was only a few days old, and his mom and I were there with him, at his changing table.

The diaper was off, so he was bare butt to the breeze, when suddenly, there was a poop explosion. Really there's no other way to describe it. Poop just projectile erupted from his bum, and sprayed everything in a ten-foot radius. His mother and I both shrieked in shock and jumped back to what we imagined was a safe distance.

The baby bicycled his legs, cooed and looked delighted.

His mother and I stood, frozen, looking at him, and then at each other in muted horror. Then slowly, very slowly, we inched back closer to him.

It was like we were both members of a bomb squad, approaching an explosive device: had the bomb fully discharged its load? Was there going to be a secondary explosion? What about shrapnel? Could we approach now? What could be considered a safe distance? I for one, wanted to put my flack suit back on, or at the very least, a Haz Mat suit.

I distinctly remember thinking, $10/an hour is not enough for this.

I almost hesitate to recommend a wine this week, lest it be known at the dog-doo wine, but recommend I shall.

The wine for this week is a 2006 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay from New Zealand.

Now i confess, I am not normally a fan of New World Chardonnays. That buttery, oaky thing is just not for me.

But this Chard is different: it's ripe and tropical with peachy, nutty minerality. It's super refreshing and bright and kind of reminds me of a rich Sauvignon Blanc. It's really nice with seafood.

So throw away that poop bag, pour yourself a glass of Kumeu River and enjoy!