By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 6:23 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

A German colleague and his wife fast for one month every year. They exist on liquids and broths to, among other things, control their weight. Among the other things is a belief that such abstention purges the body of undesirable fluids and wastes — plus bringing renewed freshness to the tastes of food and wine when the fasting ends.

There are a number of wine writers and critics who believe that occasional periods of avoiding wine for a few days, or a week or two, cleanses the palate and re-invigorates it for more critical evaluation. Except for a few stays in the Middle East, eastern Turkey, the Sudan, and the rural American South and Midwest where the consumption of alcohol would have been unseemly or very inconvenient, I have never gone more than two or three days without wine, so I am not in position to agree or disagree with the abstentionists.

I consider it from time to time, but as dinner comes to the table, I just can’t omit the wine. Of course the wines we have at dinner every evening are not normally wines one would assess critically. They are simply reliable, good “every day” wines.

But even when I was approaching a judging or serious buying event, I did not abstain, and it wasn’t difficult for me to see the difference between those wines submitted for judgment from those I put on my table every day.

I bring up this abstention idea because I often think of Hans and his annual sacrifice, especially during holiday time — during which time he celebrates just like everyone else. And when I consider trying it these days, I dismiss it on the grounds that at my age I may not have a great many more opportunities to enjoy my wines and accept that my days of trial and error are coming to an end.

But brief times of abstention may have their value. I leave it to you.

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By Sue Shelden   |   Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 9:46 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Valentine’s Day just isn’t good enough. How about if we designate all of February as Valentine’s Month? After all, it is a great time to cuddle up with your Valentine, in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace, covered up with a fuzzy blanket, eating chocolates and drinking lovely wines!

Our Indiana wineries have some lovely wines for lovers:

I love any of the Traminettes–what is there not to love in our state wine? All of our “Champagnes” are lovely, especially with the addition of a touch of pink from a strawberry or raspberry. Try Mallow Run’s Chambourcin Rose or Cayuga Blush wines–as lovely as they are delicious. I love ice wines–try Buck Creek’s Cabernet Franc or Satek’s Kreilbaum Bay Vidal Blanc ice wines.

Oliver Winery’s Chamboucin Rose and their Vignole should sweeten any relationship. Try Butler Winery’s Vineyard Rose and Huber Winery’s Sweet Marcella.

And if that isn’t enough, try this lovely cake recipe from Savour the Senses:

Champagne Cake w/ Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
1 box white cake mix
1 1/3 cup Champagne
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup butter
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 0z fresh raspberries

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the cake mix, Champagnes, eggs and oil and whisk until smooth. Pour the cake mix into two greased circular cake pans and bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean (about 25-30 minutes). Place each cake in the refrigerator until completely cooled (about 30-45 minutes). For the frosting, use a mixer to cream the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Slowly add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl, a little at a time. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the icing is smooth and light. Chop half of the raspberries in a food processor (about 2 minutes). Set aside the remaining fruit for the toppings. Add the milk and processed raspberries to the frosting and continue to mix until smooth (about 2 minutes). Remove the cakes from the fridge, frost the top of one, them stack the two cakes to finish frosting. Top with fresh raspberries before serving. Amore!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 1:07 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Vocabulary becomes a challenge for those of us who write frequently about the same subject. How many ways, for example, can you describe wine without using the same words over and over. I suspect sports writers have the same problem. How many players can be “awesome” or “athletic”? How many wines can be “austere” or “fruity” or “long” or “short”?

There are wine words not commonly used, however, that I would love to employ, but somehow the right occasion doesn’t seem to materialize to do so. I’ve been thinking about that for a long time. In an English village market, I saw wine in a bin labeled “Hock.” I have never seen Hock in the United States — or even on the Continent. The British use of it to refers to German Rhine wines and goes back at least to the days of the first Queen Elizabeth. The term derives from the town of Hochheim in the middle of the Rheingau. The Germans don’t seem to mind the title nor even the English spelling of their village — Hockheim. Though I have thought about it, I have yet to ask a wine merchant for “Hock.”

Sir John Falstaff loved “Sack,” and the Bard’s history plays contain many references to “Sack,” an Elizabethan way of designating Sherry or other fortified wines. Wordsmiths say the designation comes from the English mispronunciation of the Spanish word sacar meaning to take out. There have been Sherry producers from time-to-time who marketed their wines by wrapping the bottles in burlap, but I don’t think that initiative lasted very long.

In my collection of drinking vessels, I have several tankards, but I have yet to request a tankard of ale or beer or wine in a pub. I love the word, but I’m just skittish about employing it in public. Tankards are medieval in origin and are most commonly made of pewter, occasionally of silver for those who would afford it. To be a tankard, the drinking cup must have a handle and a cover.

“Flagon” is another word I’d love to use. A flagon differs from a tankard in that it can also be made of pottery and in addition to having a handle, it also has a spout. When I get to Arizona next month for the baseball spring training camps, I think I’ll ask a stadium concessionaire for a “Flagon of draft, please.” Or perhaps I won’t.

When visiting a wine cellar, have you ever noticed the hogsheads? Of course you have, but you thought they were barrels — or possibly casks. I’ll bet no one pointed them out to you as hogsheads.

Language is a wonderful tool, and I am hoping sometime to muster sufficient courage to ask for a tankard of Hock or to request my picture to be taken in front of the hogsheads.

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