Saturday, July 20, 2013
san francisco was wreathed in fog this morning but the sun broke through in walnut creek and it was in the high 80s with clear skies by the time we got to brentwood. thanks to friends in high places, we had the deluxe edition tour of frog hollow farm, a 140-acre tree fruit paradise containing, among other things, mind-altering apricots and a dazzling array of peach, plum, and pluot varieties that i have not yet tasted. i love fruit, and i especially love tree fruit: orchards are about the only form of agriculture that comes close to being genuinely sustainable.
alfred and sarah, co-owners, showed us around the farm. we saw: the new and fancy 10,000 case/day packing line which bruises their fruit because frog hollow picks riper than most growers do. the fragrant cold room, stacked high with cases of ripe fruit. the farm dog, which is an attention-seeking black labrador-esque animal with a cold nose. rows of alluring but unripe peaches, pears, plums, pluots, apples. a team of pickers on their third pass through a row of zee lady peaches (red-skinned but yellow-fleshed, with a rich flavour and good acid). moth pheromone emitters that interfere with moth sex and thus prevent moth larvae (good for the fruit, not so good for the moths). their full-time and seasonal staff, many of which have been with them for decades ("they're the best around: PhDs in picking and packing, every one of them"). many rows of superior-grade house-made organic compost, heavy on horse manure, chipped up old trees, and overripe peaches (managed by a consulting compost expert, turned over by a special compost-turning machine, and moistened by an 1100-gallon water tank on wheels). many fruit culled for not complying with arcane and pointless-seeming appearance guidelines—such as the peach in the picture third from the top, which suffers from "excessive cleavage." gopher holes (they like to chew on the roots of apricot and cherry, but not those of peach; a staff hunter prowls the property picking the varmints off with a shotgun). the aromatic bee gardens designed to attract the native terrestrial bees which nest underground. the neighbour's automated canning tomato harvesting machine in the adjacent field (it sucks up whole tomato plants and pours out the side a cascade of thick-skinned tomatoes at the rate of 150 tons/hour, many still green and underripe). a pickup truck destined for the farmer's market, bed completely filled with cases of ripe peaches and pluots gradually warming in the midday sun.
like a fool, i forgot—until it was far too late—to buy a case of peaches at the farm.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
a heat wave grips the northeast in its sweaty palm. pastis (lots of ice) is one way to show the heat who's boss. strawberry mascarpone and pistachio ice cream is another: pale pink and vegetal green are the colours of summer. from toscanini's, of course.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
piki bread is a hopi ceremonial wafer made from a fine batter of nixtamalized blue cornmeal and cooked on a lightly oiled sandstone griddle. there is much to explore in the process. for one thing, the wafers, despite being both lean and ultrathin, are flexible enough to be folded and rolled into various shapes. for another, the nixtamalization is done on fine-ground cornmeal instead of whole kernels. this video of the process is instructive.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
piedi grandi i did not find completely successful, but maybe hank and the sierra foothills are learning what a nebbiolo/mourvedre/syrah blend should be. the first day, it was hot as hell and with not much else going on. purple in the glass with brick edges. on the second day, it had calmed down and opened up into some peppery dark fruit, blackcurrant leaf, and some aggressive tannins, but it was still essential to drink it chilled. on day three, it had the fresh elderflower and scrubby aromas of northern california on a hot day and an enticing sweetness that was enjoyable at something more closely approaching cellar temperature. i don't know if i would call this a conventionally complex and complicated wine, but it is a thought-provoking one that recalls the sense memory of a brief time in the mountains of northern california. if i had more bottles and if they were under cork, i would lay some down for research purposes.
the martian ranch parallax, which is all mourvedre from santa barbara county, has the same blackcurrant leaf aroma. most distinctive was the sensation of the wine in the mouth: a creamy, almost starchy quality that i've never encountered before. the fruit was inkily intense but there wasn't much acid to balance it. after a day open, it developed flavours of alcohol-soaked cherries and blackberries. it was unpleasant enough that i left it to sit, undisturbed, for a few more days in the refrigerator, at which point it had gotten over the booziness and was subdued wood and vanilla, delicate cherry, cream, and a little of the tephra ashiness that marks nerello mascalese from etna.
is mourvedre the unheralded terroir grape of the cooler and less fashionable regions of northern california? i would certainly leap at the chance for another stab at la clarine's 2011 cedarville mourvedre. california is 1.44 times the size of italy.