Monday, December 29, 2014

Sideways Revisited

How many of you are like me? When someone mentions the year 2004, you think it really wasn’t that long ago.  It is in the 2000s, so it can’t be that long. 

Wait? What?!  Ten years?  It has been an entire DECADE since 2004 and the movie Sideways hit theaters and televisions (and Merlot’s bottom line).  It doesn’t seem possible.  And yet, it doesn’t seem like that far away.  Ten years…that isn’t that long, right?  I watched Sideways again this past week, just to gauge how long a decade really is in wine years.

When I watched Sideways for the first time, I was just at the beginning of my wine journey.  I was drinking wine exclusively, and had been for some time, mostly because I never could stomach beer or hard liquor (except a great margarita on the rocks with salt; that I still enjoy). 

I started by drinking wine coolers.  Sun Country wine coolers in the two-liter bottle still make me smile because of the fond times I may or may not remember.  Of course, I did some Bartles and James in there, too.  Then by my mid-to-late twenties I had moved to sweet wines, then German whites, following a very typical wine palate evolution.  I had just turned thirty when I watched the movie, and was a mom with two young children at home, so to even watch an adult movie meant I was staying up late on a weekend after the kids had went to bed. 

            My first and lasting response to the movie was not wine related (as I am sure is true for many).  I just could not get over what a TERRIBLE person the character Jack was!  What a creep.  I was a bit annoyed with Miles’ character.  All of his sniveling and whining got in the way of me enjoying his wining through the Santa Ynez Valley.  Keep in mind, this was before I had been to California to visit or had been to any wine country, for that matter.  It was before I fell in love with Pinot Noir myself.  And it was before I turned forty.

            When I rewatched the movie, my first impression was still what a complete and total jackass (excuse my French, but the wordplay is intended) Jack was.  A decade of life experience had still not softened me to a man using a woman, any woman, as his self-esteem booster.  I also was a little less patient with Miles.  I found him more than just a bit annoying.  I was sorry he wasn’t more of a grab-life-by-the-horns type of forty-something…without the sexual promiscuity of Jack. 

            However, what did resound more with me was Miles’ love of Pinot Noir.  Though I don’t degrade Merlot as he did, his speech on the Pinot grape was not only true and beautiful, it was symbolic of life…a symbol, which as a fellow English teacher, he should have been able to apply to his own life (which I think, by the end, he did).  I loved the sniffing and swirling.  I actually understood the wine terms he used.  And I knew the areas Miles and Jack visited and discussed. 
  • "It's a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It's, uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it's neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression."

            Don’t let being annoyed with one character and totally disgusted by another make you think I didn’t enjoy the movie.  A strong response to films like that usually means I was very engaged in the storyline, which was the case here.  Plus, if I am to speak completely honestly, when Miles goes to grab Jack’s wallet from the frightening sex-capade scene between waitress Cammi and her white-trash husband, I was cheering for Miles.  I wanted him to overcome something in his life…anything!  I was so happy that he did.  (And of course, very pleased when his love life appeared to turn around at the end of the movie.)  My overall review of the movie was positive, more so the second time around.  Anyone who loves wine and complicated characters will appreciate this film. 

            So, is a decade a long time?  The answer is yes!  Though 2004 doesn’t seem like it should be that distant in the past, it is.  Though the movie stayed the same, my life experiences and wine experiences have changed me so much that my response to the movie changed also.  From a novice wine drinker with two young children at home ten years ago to a formally educated wine lover six months away from an empty nest today, my reaction to Miles and Jack was very similar; however, my reaction to the wine and wine country was very different.  Time changes people…and wine.   I look forward to watching Miles and Jack again in another decade to see what I think of them and their juice.  But, good Lord, I will be FIFTY then!  Yes, time does fly.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Like Oil and...Vita Sana Olive Oil Company

Everyone’s heard the saying of two substances not going together, you know, like oil and water.  Well, I’ll tell you what oil does go with—good olive oil, anyway—and that is EVERYTHING!  Olive oil use is booming in the United States, not only for cooking, but for infusing, dipping, and dressing as well.  This boom has spawned a growing (what I call) designer olive oil industry.  In other words, specialty shops are popping up all over selling high quality and unique olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  I love this trend.  Love. It!  So I was in a bit of olive oil heaven when I visited Vita Sana Olive Oil Company on St. Joe Street in Rapid.

Olive oils and vinegars lining the modern store.

Vita Sana is in Rapid City, South Dakota, but don't miss its parent shop in Casper, Wyoming!
Vita Sana was open and inviting from the moment we stepped in the door.  Its walls were lined with high quality olive oils on one side and delicious balsamic vinegars on the other side.   Tasting was encouraged of all products—my favorite part.  Tasting cups were provided, and a small bit of oil or vinegar was put in each cup.  My comrades and I were instructed to rub the cups with oil on the palms of our hands to warm them a bit, then smell and swallow just like wine.  The balsamics didn’t need warmed up, but I found myself swirling them before smelling as well.

Store manager Rhonda showing us how this tasting is done.

I have infused my own olive oils in the past, and the “plain” olive oils here would be great for use alone or for infusing.  However, my favorite part of the experience was looking at the different options of already-infused oils for sale.  Some of these flavors I would never have thought to put together; many were old standbys, but all were so tasty.  Take blood orange for example.  I would never have thought to infuse oil with this fruit, but it was one of my favorites!  Of course, other flavors like Herbs de Provence and White Truffle were oils I loved and wanted to begin using right away.  On the other hand, I must not get so caught up in flavored options that I forget about the quality of the oils themselves.  During this time of year, the oils for sale originated in the southern hemisphere, from countries like Peru and Chile.  This is because of the harvest seasons there.  After the northern hemisphere harvested this fall, oils from Europe and Texas will be in the store by summer, making sure that the freshest oils are always available for customers.  There are many different styles and even organic options from which to choose, no matter what time of year it may be. 

Tasting the oils and vinegars...they mix WELL!

My comrade showing proper olive oil tasting technique.
As interested as I was in the oils, the balsamics had me even more enthralled!  I have long loved a well-aged balsamic, and these did not disappoint.   There was even a twenty-year aged traditional vinegar.  The infusion flavors were also impressive for the dark vinegars:  black cherry, jalapeƱo, and dark espresso were just a few.  But again, you know me, I love what’s even more unique and unusual, so I was drawn to the white balsamics like the cranberry pear and other fruity essences. 

Though oil and water may not mix, a pairing not to be missed is oil and vinegar…and I mean good olive oils and good balsamic vinegars!  The increase in popularity of both of these products has made it easier for consumers everywhere to get the best of both.  It’s a trend I hope stays and becomes common place.  Vita Sana Olive Oil Company in Rapid City (with its parent store in Casper, Wyoming) has embraced this movement and offers the best in both oils and vinegars for dipping, dressing, and infusing.  Stop in to do a tasting today.  Mix oil with your vinegar soon!

Though olive oils and vinegars are the star of Vita Sana's show...
The designer cheese case is also a supporting cast member that shouldn't be missed.

How to use your oils and vinegars:

Red, Orange, and Blue Salad

Hearts of romaine lettuce—3 cups
Blue cheese crumbles—1/4 cup
Golden raisins—1/4 cup
Honey roasted almond slices—2 tbsp.
Grilled or roasted chicken breast—2 oz.

Blood orange olive oil—2 tsp.
Cranberry orange white balsamic—3 tsp.