Friday, June 29, 2007

Good ol' days wine pairing

One of the best things about holidays and family reunions is that you get all the generations around and talk about how great things were when you were younger, and the wine industry wasn't nearly as complex as it is today...(sigh)...

Of course, you start by mentioning how gas was less than 60¢ a gallon (btw, there was no unleaded, nor catalytic converters), Global Warming wasn't a topic - the Cold War was, etc, though I'll put away the Wayback Machine so I don't bore you too much, but the conversation recently turned to wine and food back-in-the-day...

Very few of the wineries you see now were here at the time: maybe a dozen of them in each Sonoma and Napa county actually existed...those that did were mere shadows of what they are today (for the most part) while others didn't stand the test of time and went under or were bought up [see this post for some info] ...
Many of the other cities in both counties were more like towns (back then, Santa Rosa & Napa were the only real cities by today's standards)...
Land was MUCH cheaper, and a lot more AG land was devoted to other crops like sheep, cattle, fruit and nuts...and the wine selections were much more limited...

In fact, much of the varietal wine marketing you see today was created in the past 30~40 years. Prior to that the offerings tended to "California Burgundy", "California Claret" (both reds), "California Sauternes" or "California Chablis" (white wines)[the European model was being emulated of describing wines by region], and sometimes a Gewurz or Riesling could be found as well.
For good or ill, White Zin didn't exist yet...

You could buy wine by the gallon or half-gallon, and many times bring a jug back to the winery and get it refilled...if you knew the people in the tasting room and if you asked nicely you could pick up a gallon of vinegar for your kitchen as well...

But while those wines seem simplistic by todays consumer standards, they were pretty decent for being larger blends without much to offer in the way of varietal identity or "regionality". You drank what you wanted, though in the 60's people started to drink more of the whites with fish and pork, leaving the reds for red meat. Even so, many families I knew had a bottle of Zin (or other light bodied red) in the ice-box for hot afternoons. (That model of "serviceable, but not stellar, wine for daily consumption" is alive and kicking today: Hearty Burgundy, California Chablis and the Paisano blends can still be found on store shelves ...and we even see it perpetuated by Bronco's Two-Buck Chuck - though I'll wager that Franzia might take exception to that description on the heels of his Chard's double-gold @ the California State Fair...)

Anyway, many of us grew up on the stuff, having it first at family dinners watered down when we were young. Later, we'd use it to cook with - especially when fresh game was the choice of the evening. Fowl (ducks, doves, quail, songbirds), rabbits, deer, trout and bass, wild pigs, or the odd squirrel...
I know - you're thinking how barbaric of me to include songbirds and squirrels, but what the hell, we were young, and both the songbirds and squirrels would give their positions away and became easy targets (the birds were singing, and the damned squirrels would bark like mad if you were anywhere near their "turf"). Robins and seasoned polenta was a favorite at the house, especially if we could get one of our grandparents to make some marinara sauce to put over it...we were hellions, and proud of it!
And as an adult, I couldn't be bothered to clean a squirrel...there just wasn't that much meat on them back-in-the-day.
(A quick nod to the old 1963 ed. of Joy of Cooking, which - god bless them - even tells you how to prepare 'possum, bear & raccoon...Trés Martha Stewart!)

Hunting grounds were easy to find...half the current population wasn't here yet...
It seemed as if everyone knew of at least one open field and one orchard/vineyard they could head into on any given day, depending on what was in season. Some items were always in season, as they were considered varmints (coyotes and feral dogs were "sport-only"; not meant for the table...).
Seems kind of strange when compared to the fare you're
now likely to find offered in Napa or Sonoma, but it was damned tasty, and went well with the unpretentious wines.

These days I imagine I'd still be grabbing a red for most of the game selections -just out of habit- but wouldn't steer away from a middle of the road white if it were handy. Maybe I should head out and buy a bottle of the 2-Buck Chuck Chard and prepare one of the ducks in the freezer
this weekend to celebrate Bronco's win.

PS - A note to PETA: Trust me, before most of you vegans were born, those furry little creatures were vicious killers! Every morning you'd have to peep thru the curtains before steeping outside to make sure no raccoons were lying in wait to getcha'...it'd still be that way if we hadn't culled the most vicious of their ilk back then [you can thank me later]...

Seriously, it was us or them...and it's not like we were water-boarding them or anything like that...

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had lunch at Buchon in Yountville this week. Appetizer of mussels, leek salad and an open faced lamb sandwich with frites. All excellent and all very nice with my French white wine. I don't know what the varietal was because the French often refuse to tell you, but I think it was Pinot Blanc? In any case, probably not a conventional pairing with the lamb, but I still managed to enjoy my meal.

Alistair McGoldrick

June 29, 2007 9:52 AM  
Anonymous skeptic said...

any possibility that Bronco put together a "better than normal" blend for the competition it won?

I just don't see what I've purchased in the past & tasted coming in 1st place with a double gold medal.

Or does Bronco have such variability in its sourcing that this was a once in a million blends chance for them, and all the rest of the blends will be what I've tasted in the past (they were pretty low on the totem pole hierarchy if you know what I mean). If I were stranded on an island, and my only choicce was 2-buck then I'd probably drink it, but theres so much other wine out there that personally I'd rather find something else.

June 29, 2007 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on skeptic, give Fred Franzia a break. If it wasn't him picking up the millions of gallons of excess wine and delivering it to consumers at an affordable price, then someone else would. Two Buck is certainly of varying quality - it doesnt pretend to be a single vineyard estate wine - but it introduces a large number of consumers to the world of wine, and offers a value product to consumers who are price conscious.

I figure if one were stranded on an island, one would be drinking anything he could get his hands on: I worked once with a guy who survived a helicopter crash in remote Fiji. After three days un-rescued they were working their way through the Old Spice. Rather good with coconut milk apparently.

July 11, 2007 8:33 AM  

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