News Archive

  • Oh Honey

    Last June I was fortunate enough to inherit a swarm of bees from a kindly neighbor’s hive. Though the industrious critters worked zealously through the summer and into autumn, it was to my great sorrow to discover the colony’s company steadily dwindling through the months of February and March. While they left behind a full “deep” of drawn comb and capped honey, ultimately, the girls succumbed to a harsh winter, and I found myself hiveless and bereft.


    In the ensuing weeks, I watched with sadness (and at times fervently battled) as a colony of ants endeavored to take up residence in my now empty hive. Fortunately, a local community of bee keepers added me to their waiting list of interested persons hoping to obtain a “nucleus” of bees, dispelling a degree of my despondency. Weeks of waiting affected further discouragement.


    UNTIL… Yesterday evening, when I had made to once again evict the filching formicidae, and was descending to a deeper despair in my apiary pursuits, a solitary bee set down upon my hand. Momentarily distracted from my ineffectual commission, I spoke to her in a low tone, imploring her to enlighten her sisters of this well – appointed domicile. I articulated that, should they consider inhabiting this lovely Langstroth (and evict their colonized cousins currently bivouacking amongst the frames), they’d be well – provided for. The foraging bee (I shall call her Pilar) listened patiently before taking to her wings again, leaving me alone with the damnable ants. It being past the time of preparing for my evening out with the ever – enduring Ms. Clementine Seville, I set about my new task of grooming for our schedule affair. In the midst of making myself presentable, I received a message from my good neighbor informing me that his hive had yet again swarmed and had just deposited itself atop the tree behind his property.


    Hurriedly, I made my way to the site where the swarm had come to rest. Being unfamiliar with this variety of labor, I took my lead from my most capable fellow whose bees we were intent upon extracting. The operation required a “slow and deliberate” pace, he advised, so as not to disturb too greatly, the spherical mass of vibrating bustle. Employing great caution we set about the charge of cutting out the branch where upon the mass had alighted. Ian, being the taller chap, perched himself on that most useful top rung of the ladder (to be exploited only in dire situations such as these), and deftly excised the branch from the tree with several surgical snips, before handing it to me.  “Give it two shakes: one short, one sharp… just over the box of frames there”. After watching him mime the action a few time, I repeated the movement (with no small degree of unease) to an audible fwhump, followed by a substantial cloud of mildly confused, but surprisingly docile bees. Within a few minutes, the animation had lessened itself to a manageable hum and the entire effort was done in less than a quarter of an hour. In the last luminance of the day, we loosely fitted the lid to the top and removed ourselves from the area while the stragglers found their way into their temporary home. Late last night, the Nuc was sealed and transported to my estate, thence placed next to the awaiting hive. This few hours past I carefully transplanted the five full frames into a half – empty “deep”, resting on top of last year’s “deep” with its cache of drawn comb and honey. It’s difficult to discern who is happier at the moment… me, the neighbor from whose tree we removed the swarm, or the roughly 15 thousand bees now residing in the furnished hive. Should this colony of new tenants prove capable, I plan to appropriate a small levy of honey from their efforts to use in my newest vermouth! More news on that subject as the details develop.

  • Cilantro: Soap or Savory?

    No doubt amongst the most polarizing of herbs, Cilantro seems to illicit uniquely fervent rejoinders in regard to its character and quality. Admittedly, once I counted myself among the ranks of individuals whose assessment of the herbaceous plant as a culinary component, was to jibe “Ghastly Shrub… it lends the impression of soap!” That is because masticating the raw herb awarded the offender the unpleasant sensation of having one’s mouth washed out with soap (such as on the occasion one’s GranGran caught one using colorful language reserved for rugged workmen and sturdy seafaring fellows). Widely believed to be the result of a genetic temperament, those of us afflicted with such unfortunate response had little incentive to join those who seem to be born with a fondness for the flavor experience and add it to all our foods. Quite so… Why put forth the effort to adapt to such sensation if a body is predisposed to affront?


    Time passed, as it inevitably does, and my exposure to this herb did not abate. However as my ingestive experiences increased, and I encountered cilantro repeatedly, my aversion to it slowly shifted to a passive indifference. I was able to consume all manner of dishes seasoned with fresh cilantro, and not feel as if my palate was under siege. Within a few years, my sense of flavor continued to evolve to the point where I now crave Cilantro and will take it on its own, by the bunch. In fact, it has become the customary companion to the cured meats and salted quicos Ms. Seville and I have made a habit of enjoying with a splash of dry sherry upon finishing the work day. I would even go so far as to suggest that Cilantro is an ideal flavor enhancer – an herbal MSG of sorts. Its aroma refreshes the very air you breathe, and its pleasant piquancy summarily prepares the palate for the nightly repast. Truly, it’s an utterly civilized way to wind down work and submerse oneself into leisurely ease. If you have reservations regarding the degree of its palate purifying properties, I would encourage you to chew a few sprigs, stem and all, or use as a garnish in your vermouth or sangria. Make a nightly practice of it for a week or two and see if your palate doesn’t evolve to a similar state of delectation.

  • Sharing is REALLY caring...

    Within 8 months of our first official release of L’Afrique, and 5 months of Sac’Résine, we find our supply of the two sadly vacated. While we are quite pleased to enjoy such an affirmative reception, we are even more pleased that the subsequent production of each is of greater volume and will likely endure a longer stay on the market. While validation by broad acceptance is most desirable, the uninterrupted flow of our concepts (and commercial exchange thereof) is more so. Presently, we are targeting release of the next L’Afrique for April, followed by Sac’Résine in late May or early June of this same year. In the intervening time, we might suggest its application be more sparing than sharing.

  • Where Would I Be Without Citrus?

    Preview


    Here it is yet again, that time of year when our produce markets abound with celestial citrus fruits. Fresh, floral, fragrant, family Rutaceae - your bergamia, your paradisi, your aurantium and of course my dear heart’s namesake, clementine…  terpene- rich oils, hesperidium heavy with lith, and locule laden with liquid gold. Ardent awareness of agrumi revives, with daily introduction to its intoxicatingly- perfumed zests.


    I confess: my devotion to its impeccable and utterly ubiquitous nature seasonally ebbs with autumn, when the necessitous force of vitis provisionally usurps my deliberation. But in my remissness, a cyclic obsession quietly germinates…


    December comes and I am again reminded that grape berries, while occupying nearly all of my waking efforts in the autumn months, are but one narrow slice of the fruit spectrum. Atop my present fulcrum (grape harvest on the one side, citrus season on the other) creative visions flourish. From simple sangria, to infinitely complex vermouth, the marriage of these two titans, vinifera and citrus, couldn’t be more flawless. Indeed, it is a congress upon which I rely to communicate so much of my life’s perspective. My canvass, my stage, my pen and ink… of all the creative materials at my disposal, these two are the foundation. So, with the onset of Winter’s cold looming, and nascent wines comfortably coopered away, I will seek safe haven in the harbors of citrus, reacquainting myself with the familiar, and shamelessly searching out new hybrids with hidden nuances.

  • A Tale of Two Harvests

    In this trade, it is not entirely uncommon for one to work multiple harvests in a year by following the ever- alternating seasonal shifts between the northern and southern hemispheres. Typically, this is done so with a measure of time spent in leisure, as well as in transit, amid the two turns of the same vintage. Such stretches of time are characteristically registered in many of months, separated by thousands of miles, and often by deeply contrasting climates. Indeed I too once embarked upon such an ambitious pursuit in my younger years, finding myself knee- deep, as it were, in ripened wine grapes on the vast continent of Australia, only months after finishing harvest in our beloved union of States.


    Rarely though do the more stationed of us experience such multiple, distinctly different harvests in a single year, particularly without leaving the region.  Vintage year Two Thousand- Thirteen however, asserted itself as conditionally dichotomous…  a near- record, hot and early start to harvest, transitioning to a long, cold wet spell, followed by a very late, but thankfully cool and dry end to the vintage. We started the “first harvest” early in September picking a rapidly ripening Syrah for our L’Afrique, under blazing hot and dry conditions. Shortly thereafter thirsty vines were slaked with several sodden weeks of relentless rains. This torrent effectively signaled the end of one harvest before ushering in the beginning of another. We had fairly finished fermenting everything from the first round of picking, and had fixed our site on the mid- point of October, before the “second harvest” set in. Cool and dry days dwindled while the Pinot Blanc for our Sac’Résine was brought in from the fields.


    Typically while waiting between two distinct harvests, ones travels might convey them to Dordogne (for a visit to an old university chum), or bring about an excursion to the spice markets of Istanbul (research and inspiration of course). However, the furthest my travels carried me between these “two harvests”  was to the old Mission city of Los Angeles in the south of California State. Though not nearly as exotic, the jaunt was suitable stimulating, if not decently enchanting… a bit like the two harvests of Vintage year Twenty- Thirteen.

  • Yes! I will make Vermouth!

    A complex message seemingly welded into the very fabric of my bones, akin to a giant concretion of snow and ice, has been accumulating mass since my earliest recognizance. Had I the gift of classical refinements such as music, painting, pageantry, etc. perhaps I may have composed, rendered, or performed myself a ballast against this mental maelstrom, but alas, I possess no such talents, and the growing clamor threatens to carry me away in a great tempest of unstructured cerebration. But now, at last, the disquiet may be channeled! It is on this day that upon my bodily introduction to a certain Barolo Chinato (contrived by one Giuseppe Vajra), the totality of my vapours, megrims, humours, etc. dissipated in a transitory moment. After toiling countless years in search of the crowning medium in which to deliver a sundry of hitherto indecipherable concepts, my consciousness is finally relieved of that burdensome adiposity. Eureka! It is in my preservation of agricultural and botanical specialties and the preparation of aromatic chemique that I now perceive a cure. The treatment for my malady, you see, is in the fashioning of a relatively new pharmacon known as “Vermouth”. Yes! I will make Vermouth!

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