Archive | May 26th, 2010

Wine: Shining Some Light on the Subject

Wine: Shining Some Light on the Subject

I walked into a gas station store recently to pay for gas and grab some emergency cans of cat food. They didn’t carry any pet tuna, but I noticed something new—a wine rack next to the entrance.

My first reaction was to flinch at the sight of light pouring in through the windows and glass door onto the wine. The next thought followed quickly: It was good to see a gas station mini-mart selling a selection of wine—especially since beer drinkers have such a plentiful choice.

I saw the rack by the door as a sign of the times. The fact that an actual selection of wines was there at all might reflect the advances wine drinkers have made on beer drinkers over the past years. In a couple of recent years, in fact, the Gallup Poll showed wine drinkers outnumbering beer drinkers in the U.S. (Some, however, claim the numbers of glasses of wine and beer sold in the U.S. don’t bear that out.)

As I reflected further, it seemed that putting that rack in the window might not be all that bad. This was not high-end wine, but inexpensive wine that probably would move quickly. It was the kind of wine people would take home and drink, not put it in a cellar or wine rack. The rack wasn’t large, so the wine might not sit in the sun that long. Or at least, that was an optimistic way to look at it.

Grapes developing on the vine need sun; wine in bottles doesn't.

Sun, of course, is a great thing when it comes at the right time and in the right amounts to ripen grapes. It’s where the sugar is developed that is needed for fermentation.

But, when wine becomes wine, after it is bottled, it must come in out of direct sunlight.  This is because free radicals develop in wine when it is exposed to ultraviolet light. These cause wine to oxidize much more quickly. Colored bottles, rather than clear, do offer a little protection from the sunlight.

Another factor comes into play here, too. Wine shouldn’t be stored under fluorescent lighting, either.

In fact, if I go into a wine store and see wine on racks under fluorescents, I reach to the bottom of the rack to take out the bottle I’m going to purchase.

A study in 1988, by the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis, found that exposure to fluorescent light on still and sparkling wines, after about 18 hours, showed in the aromas in the wine. “With increased time of exposure, a decrease in citrus aroma intensity occurred, while the intensity of cooked cabbage, corn nuts, wet dog/wet wool, and soy/marmite aromas increased.”

Not tastes I want in my wine glass!

My last thought as I exited the store that day wasn’t about the wine. It was about cat food. Why, for heaven’s sake, don’t they stock it?  That’s the other thing I’ll take up with them, after we discuss wine storage.

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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Griffin to Go: Getting Slowly Back into the Kitchen

Griffin to Go: Getting Slowly Back into the Kitchen

Putting the finishing touches on a pizza.

Most of my recent days have blurred into one endless repeat of the day before. It’s all because I’ve been working seven days a week and accumulating as much overtime as I can possibly get.

Working a steady job will do that to me. I love the structure of reporting to work at a certain time of day (although 6 a.m. is a bit much for me, as I am a night owl by nature). I even love it when I work for days on end, though I have to bear in mind that this is only a temporary job that will end in just a few weeks.

The day-in-day-out routine has had a drastic effect on my cooking life, and I have heard a similar comment from a co-worker who is a culinary school grad. I haven’t had the drive to cook or eat much at the end of the day. I just teeter on home, spend a few minutes with my bird and head off to bed. I can sympathize with all of you who face the same and yet have to put together something for your family each evening.

While cooking may not be on the agenda, dreaming about what I would like to cook has been.

First and foremost is a savory zucchini cobbler with sundried tomatoes and basil leaves in a buttery filling with a corn meal topping.

Another is a decadent dessert with homemade peach ice cream atop a blackberry-peach crumble. Both ingredients are in season, so why not enjoy them while they are at their freshest.

And I would just to fire up the grill and fill it with three or four ears of corn rubbed with a hot chile before dredging it through melted butter and lime juice.

But they are likely to be dreams for a few more weeks.

I did get back into a kitchen this past Sunday, thanks to a monthly Bible study group that I’ve been a part of for years. We had decided to have a pizza party before we began our regular reading.

One member, Sandy, made a series of doughs, including whole wheat with basil to white with Parmesan cheese. Erica brought a garlicky tomato sauce for the base. David, Angie, Judy, Steve, our hostess Sue and others brought an assortment of toppings and other treats: sausage, peppers, onion, mushrooms, turkey pepperoni, green and black olives, spinach, chicken, you name it. The cheese list featured mozzarella, feta, provolone, grana padano and Jalapeño Jack. I brought along the anchovies, which only I wanted, as well as artichoke hearts.

Pizza with spinach, chicken, artichoke hearts and feta.

I had signed up for a salad and ended up tossing together the simplest one I could think of: cucumber slices and apple in rice vinegar, a touch of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Fresh mint leaves were torn over the top. That’s it, yet it was simply delicious.

It was also something I could do while being exhausted and I will likely make it again in the near future for that very reason. I may vary the ingredients a little. Daikon radish would be good and maybe other herbs from the backyard, such as lovage or parsley.

What mattered most was helping put together the pizzas. There was something therapeutic about handing the dough Sandy made and helping to spread it out on the cookie sheets we used as well as assembling the pies with the various toppings, whether it was a sausage and peppers pie or one with an assortment of meats and cheeses.

Of course, we made way too much. But that’s the beauty of pizza, isn’t it? Who can resist a breakfast of cold pizza with sautéed spinach, chicken and artichoke hearts on top?

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