April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
After a month of no snow, little rain and 60+ degree temperatures I thought it was safe to do gardening week. I guess the bad weather yesterday and today is ultimately a good thing because it has gotten me to slow down and realize I may need to do a little more planning vs just doing when it comes to gardening. My husband will be saying “I told you so” right about now as he reads this…
The expense can add up quickly, so I’ve spent yesterday and today thinking about what I want to accomplish with the garden. In the front of the house I’d like to do a xeric + local wildflower garden and then on our deck off the second floor I want to do a potager with a mixture of tomatoes, herbs, roses and small potted trees. I’ll be covering both of these projects in separate posts to come.
March 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
This week I set out simply to get up and see seven sunrises in a row as a change of pace from my normal routine of sleeping as late as I can get away with. Per usual with this project, it got me thinking about a lot of other things like whether I could become a morning person and whether I’m getting a good night’s sleep.
I still don’t know that I’m a morning person but I know I would like to continue getting up some mornings to catch the sunrise. Boulder is a beautiful place and sunrise is arguably the most beautiful time of day to enjoy it. It’s quiet and peaceful. You have time with your own thoughts. As cheesy as it sounds it’s like you’re waking up with nature vs an “alarm”. There’s just something about it that makes the rest of your day feel manageable waking up that way. It reminds me of living in LA and driving home along the beach watching the sun set over the ocean. It puts your day in perspective and reminds you no matter how hectic the day can often be, there’s a pace that transcends it.
Getting up early for a week forced me to examine some of my sleeping habits that I normally don’t really pay a lot of attention to. I realized I wasn’t really getting a good night’s sleep. I learned a few things that I’ll keep doing to sleep better and therefore wake up feeling more rested.
1) relax before bedtime – no more web surfing, texting, stressful TV shows right up until bedtime. Instead bath time and reading. I’m excited about the new world of bath products I’ll get to explore!
2) no alcohol right before bedtime but rather a glass of wine earlier in the evening. (of course this doesn’t count nights out with friends)
3) no TV, iPad, mac or iPhones in the bedroom.
4) try not to wake up to an alarm clock or repetitive snoozing in the morning but rather the morning light & sounds. It’s really not that hard to do. (of course have a backup)
Some people say it’s good to have a set bedtime and wake up time each day. I’m not someone who likes having a regimented schedule like that, but I do think after this week, I’ll get better sleep and naturally wake up to enjoy some beautiful sunrises.
March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide arch
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered mid-way round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.
As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance.
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance,
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river’s flow
Was darkened by the forest’s shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.
If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills!
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears
March 21, 2011 § 3 Comments
I’ve never been much of a morning person. Especially in the last few months I’ve been freelancing from Boulder, I’ve become even less so. It’s so nice to work from home and not have to get up and go into the office. I also like that I now get to sleep in later than my husband. I used to be the one to get us up. It’s kind of luxurious. Everyone has told us that will all change when we have kids, but for now I’ve been milking it.
This week I thought it would be fun to test out whether I could get up and get going before sunrise for seven days straight. I also have some food & wine to work off from last week. This morning when the alarm went off at 6:00 I was tempted to shut it off and just do my backup plan for the week, but I got up while it was still dark out. I know 6:00 isn’t that early but I usually get up around 8:00, so it’s definitely much earlier for me.
I drove over to Wonderland Lake for an easy stroll around the lake. It was pretty stunning with the moon still out over the mountains and the sunrise opposite.
I was pretty proud of myself to be the first person out on the trail which is saying a lot in Boulder. It was so quiet when I started out and slowly all sorts of birds started chirping. It really makes it feel like Spring is here. It didn’t take long to see people out running and traversing the mountain paths but it was still really peaceful.
Another nice aspect of being up that early is seeing the wildlife. I got to see a couple of deer having a morning drink in the pond. Luckily I saw no mountain lions.
If anyone has any favorite spots in the area to check out, let me know. I’d love to check them out.
March 20, 2011 § 1 Comment
I hope I got the Italian right. Apparently there are a few ways to say “I love you” in Italy. Grant (pictured far right) can correct me if I’m wrong. I can’t thank Bobby, Matt, Grant and the rest of the crew enough for letting me tag along this week to learn about wine & life as a sommelier. It’s been my favorite week yet.
There were 3 main areas I set out to explore with this project: personal interests, local/community and craft. Sommelier week was definitely the trifecta.
1) personal interest: I’ve always loved wine, but this week took it to a whole new level. Wine became much more special to me because Bobby & Matt taught me how to learn about it, not just enjoy it. I think a lot of times we’re so used to things being spelled out for us we don’t even have to think about them on our own terms. Even in the case of wine, it’s been assigned grades that tells us if it’s supposedly good or not. This week I learned how to start making my own assessment and I began to learn how to understand wine, making it much more personal. I think the life of a sommelier is fascinating because it’s an ongoing exploration of how the world is expressed through wine, which in many ways is constant but in other ways is constantly changing, always keeping it interesting.
2) local: Frasca meaning “branch” is a generic Friulian term for a casual restaurant often attached to a winery. It’s typically the neighborhood place for good food & wine. In Boulder, Frasca always delivers an incredible dining experience. Getting to hang out to see how it works firsthand and how the sommeliers there think about wine has given me a new appreciation for why Frasca is so special. Not only did I learn so much from them, but they made me feel like part of the family. It was another experience that brings me closer to becoming part of the community of Boulder.
3) craft: I’ve mentioned the book Shopclass as Soulcraft a few times now which talks about the value of work that involves learning a trade. When you think of sommeliers, I think some might think of it as an elitist profession, but this week I saw the pure craft of it. In the book, Michael Crawford says craftsmanship might simply be the desire to do something well for its own sake. He quotes the philosopher Hannah Arendt, “The reality and reliability of the human world rest primarily on the fact that we are surrounded by things more permanent than the activity by which they were produced, and potentially even more permanent than the lives of their authors.” I think the sommelier is dedicated to understanding that permanence of wine, the craft of it, and is devoted to communicating that to others. I think it’s why so many sommeliers go on to make their own wine. It brings them one step closer.
This is a hard week to move on from, but the good thing is that I’ve now incorporated a new way to appreciate wine. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m definitely hooked. It is like a giant puzzle & I’m now obsessed with understanding how all the pieces fit together.
March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
After spending a week with sommeliers I realize I’ve been blindly tasting wine. I’ve enjoyed wine but I’ve never really employed my senses to understand what it is & what makes certain wines more special than others. This week I learned a lot more about evaluating wine by spending time with sommeliers as they did blind tastings. Blind tastings are a key aspect of how a sommelier becomes a sommelier. They help them hone their evaluation skills and are also the key component of the certification exam. To pass you are presented with 6 wines that you have to verbally evaluate. correctly identifying their characteristics (and in advanced levels the wines themselves) in 25 minutes. The scoring gets harder as you advance. 95% of people fail the Master Sommelier exam.
The first blind tasting I observed was at Frasca with Matt Mather and Grant Reynolds. Matt is going for his Master Sommelier certification soon and Grant is going for the Advanced level. Multiple times a week they practice tasting with each other with one person tasting & verbally describing the wines while the other follows along taking notes. It’s a process of identification and elimination that has its own cadence & language. Matt said the hardest part of it is that you have 2 minds competing with each other – the one that’s trying to evaluate things on face value and the one that might be forcing it a bit. You have to try to continue to force your mind, senses and palate to be objective and to look for the benchmarks that will reveal the wine.
I also paid a visit to the Boulder Wine Merchant this week to watch a blind tasting between their team and Frasca’s crew. Community is important for sommeliers. It’s how they learn from each other and stay on top of what they do. They had 3 different stations combining people with various levels from those looking to pass the sommelier exam to Brett as a Master Sommelier.
After watching these guys, I thought it would be fun to try it on my own, so Brett put together 2 whites and 2 reds for my husband and I to practice with. We are so lucky to have such a great wine shop in our neighborhood. Our level of knowledge of what different varietals should reveal is pretty low, but the exercise itself just gets to you focus in more on what it is you’re seeing, smelling and tasting in a way you can’t when you know what something is already. John correctly identified the Sancerre while I correctly identified the second white as from California, although I thought it was Chardonnay when it was viognier. (It smelled like vanilla oak to me).
Not only was this a lot of fun to do, but we learned a lot from the mistakes we made. After we revealed the wines, we read up on them and learned the cues we should be picking up from them. I’ll only caution that this can be pretty addictive if you like wine.
I think I might be hooked.
March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Last year my husband and I went to Champagne & Burgundy on our honeymoon to France. It was a special trip I’ll always treasure. This May, we’re going to Italy and I’m looking forward to seeing the vineyards of some of the fantastic wines I’ve been introduced to this week. We’re also going to check out Slovenia and Croatia where some very interesting wines are being produced.
Travel has always been in my blood. I think it’s one of the reasons I love coffee and wine so much. They have “place” and reflect the nuances of that place. I wish I had the time and money to be able to visit all the great vineyards in the world, but in lieu of that I can enjoy a great wine that can transport me there.
The question is: where to go?
The answer? Ask a sommelier. A sommelier’s craft is not only to know great wines but to also understand where they come from. They travel extensively to wine producing regions, study them religiously and spend a lot of time with producers to understand the “place” of the wine. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a visit of from the head of sales of the Produttori di Barbaresco at Frasca yesterday. Not only did I get to taste my way through the region of Barbaresco, but it was fascinating to hear about the land from the gentleman who has lived there his whole life. His two grandfathers were 2 of the original 19 farmers of Barbaresco; now there are 53.
At Frasca, they take those relationships even a step further by organizing wine events every Monday that showcase wine producers, often inviting the producers themselves to come talk about their wines. This Monday I went to their wine event featuring the unique macerated wines of Radikon. It was pretty special to hear Sasa Radikon talk about where the wine is from.
As much as I would like to live at Frasca, I think they might get a bit tired of seeing me there everyday. Luckily, I also have the Boulder Wine Merchant and can be transported to all kinds of amazing places through their wine selection. Brett Zimmerman, also a Master Sommelier, has gone to great lengths to introduce people to some of the best “terroir” you can get your hands on. The service he and his team provide will make you feel like you’re on a comfortable, impeccably guided tour as they walk you through where the wines come from. Gili in particular has been so helpful in educating me on wine.
It’s good to know outside of vacation I can still satisfy my travel bug through a nice bottle of vino. It’s even better to now know some wonderful sommeliers who are furthering my education of where what I’m drinking comes from.