Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Peshico: Learning About Natural Wine in Japan

July 24, 2012

If you took the time to watch Episode 51 of SRWBTV, you may recall that I spent quite a bit of time talking about Natural Wine.

Although the term has been a hot topic among wine geeks for some time now, it wasn’t until my recent visit to Nagoya, Japan that I got a chance to really understand what Natural Wine really is.

You may recall from the Japan Fun Time series on Stay Rad that one night PB and Aim E. took us to a Natural Wine shop called Peshico

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Peshico

Aim and PB had been to a few of their tasting events in the past.  Knowing that Kara and I love wine, they called up Joel from Peshico to see if they could arrange a tasting for us.

Although Joel told them that Peshico was moving away from doing tasting events, he invited us down to the store to pick some bottles of wine.  We could then head over to a local restaurant to have dinner and enjoy the wines while Joel described them.

We were all like, “Heck yeah, foo!”

And Joel was all like, “Come on down.”

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Peshico: The Shop

Now…

Before we really get into the wine, let’s talk about the umbrella that is Natural Wine…

The term “Natural Wine” is not regulated by any governing body, the way that “Organic” is.  Most Natural Wine producers will not include the term on their label.  This makes it tough for us American consumers to take hold of.

Natural Wine is not just “Organic” or “Biodynamic”.  Those labels refer to how the grapes are farmed.  Many Natural Wine advocates will argue that after these organic grapes are farmed, they can be treated in very un-natural ways to make wine.

The best way that I can describe Natural Wine is that it is a philosophy in winemaking.

When grapes hang from vines, as they ripen, natural yeasts will collect on the grapes.  These indigenous yeasts will consume energy from the sugar in the grapes through a process called alcoholic fermentation, a natural process in which yeast convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.  You may have heard stories of birds eating grapes that have fermented on the vine, gotten drunk, and then flown into windows.  Essentially, the alcohol produced here is wine, the way that nature intended.

Now…

Of course, the moment that man decides to plant and farm grapes, throw them into barrels and bottles, stick a label on them, and sell them to the public, we introduce a whole bunch of un-natural processes.  The goal of the natural winemaker is to intervene as little as possible in this process to make a wine that people will enjoy.  In order to do this, winemakers will try to follow a self-imposed set of guidelines.  Here are a few of them…

1. Grapes are organically grown (with or without certification).

2. Grapes are dry-farmed.

3. Grapes are hand-picked.

4. Wine is fermented on their natural occurring yeasts.

5. No sugar is added during the winemaking process.

6. Wines are rarely filtered or fined.

7. Very little, if any, sulfites are added during the process.

Now…

A quick word on sulfites.

There is no such thing as a sulfite-free wine, because sulfites occur naturally in grapes.  While sulfite allergies do exist (the FDA estimates 1% of the population suffers from sulfite sensitivity), the compound seems to get a bad rap from the general public.

Some folks like to blame sulfites for their hangovers, when alcohol is the more likely culprit.

Some folks claim that the sulfites in red wine gives them headaches, so they stick to white.  The reality is that white wine contains much more sulfites on average than their red counterparts.

If you are convinced that you have a sulfite sensitivity, you could see an allergist… Or you could do the food test.  Do you have reactions to dried fruits?  If so, maybe you do have a sulfite sensitivity… Considering that they contain about 10 times more sulfites than wine.

Okay…

Back to Natural Wine…

I like the idea of being a minimalist when it comes to making wine.  It is not the goal of the natural winemaker to make a wine that is consistently the same from one year to the next.  It is the goal of the natural winemaker to produce a wine that best expresses the grapes grown in one place during the course of one year.  Just like the weather, Natural Wines can vary quite a bit from one year to the next.  In a sense, you could consider Natural Wine to be journal that nature has written during one growing season.

You know… This blog is kind of like a journal.  Does that mean that Natural Wine is Rad?

Let’s read on, and find out…

So…

After picking out a few bottles, Joel took us over to a local Italian restaurant called Orsarino…

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Orsarino

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Good thing Joel knows his Japanese as well as he knows his wine…

Joel ordered us up some good food.  Take a look…

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Scalops

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Tons of other dope foods.

As good as all the food was, this dinner was all about the wine…

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Natural Wine

Wine One:

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Christian Binner 2009 Katz’en Bulles: This sparkling Riesling from Alsace, France brought aromas of apple and lavender. There’s a good lemon/lime acidity to go with notes of honey and menthol on the palate. A great start.

Wine Two:

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Pierre Frick 2008 Pinot Blanc: This Alsacian white is a crisp little number. Apple Sauce. Honeysuckle. Lemon. Crisp to the Hella.

Wine Three:

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Le Scarabee 2009 Sur un Nuage: This is a red blend of Grenache and Carignan from the Roussillon region of France. Good notes of strawberry, clove, and cinnamon on the nose. Good flavors of Earth and strawberries. Good tannic mouthfeel. You could say it’s good cubed… And that’s hella good!

Wine Four:

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Podere il Santo 2006 Rairon: 90% of this Italian red from Lombardia is made of a grape called Uva Rara. That translates to Rare Grape! The other 10% is Barbera. There’s a great nose of cherries, blueberries, and soil. The palate matched the beautiful nose on this wine. Everyone at the table was a fan.

I’ve gotta say that ever since this dinner, my mind has been obsessing on Natural Wine.

I was really pleased with how fresh, different, and delicious these wines were.

Now…

I’m certain that there are some clunkers out there, but this dinner was a shining example of how good Natural Wine can be.

I want to thank Joel at Peshico for being such a great host, and for sending me a whole bunch of info on the wines we drank that night.

If you get a chance, don’t be afraid to give Natural Wine a try.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

PS – For more info on Natural Wine, check out MoreThanOrganic.com.

Boom! Taking on Osu Kannon

July 12, 2012

On of my favorite memories from Japan was our quick trip to the shopping district of Osu Kannon…

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Osu Kannon

Osu Kannon is a huge outdoor shopping area.

Now…

I’m not a huge fan of shopping, but the vibe of this place was really cool.

The highlight for me was when we peeked our heads into an eatery, and got us some Okonomiyaki.

Last night, I tried my hand at a traditional, flat, Okonomiyai pancake…

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My Attempt at the Traditional Okonomiyaki

And, aside from not cutting the cabbage thin enough, it turned out pretty well.

But…

The Okonomiyaki in Osu Kannon is far from traditional…

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The Sandwich Style Okonomiyaki of Osu Kannon

Aside from its shape, the major difference in this type of Okonomiyaki is that the cabbage and onions are not part of the pancake.  They are instead prepared separately, and folded up in the thin pancake like a omlette, so you can eat it sandwich style.

Since I had a bunch of leftover ingredients from last night, today I decided to try my own hand at the Okanomiyaki Sandwich.

But first…

A drink.

One of my favorite beverages from Japan was the Chu Hi.  It’s a citrus flavored cocktail made from Shochu (a spirit made from distilled wheat, rice, and sesame).

The other day, I picked up a bottle of Shochu from a Japanese market in the Japan Town section of San Jose…

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Benitome Shochu. It’s got the roundness of Sake, but with an alcoholic kick.

The only thing you really need to mix with the Shochu is some citrus juice and a splash of carbonated water.  Here’s what I used…

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Sparkling Mineral Water and Rio Red Grapefruit Juice

I went about 50-50 on Juice to Shochu, and topped it off with the Mineral Water to get this…

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The Rad Grapefruit Chu Hi

Pretty good.  Make sure you enjoy this one responsibly.

Oh…

I almost forgot…

Here’s my Okonomiyaki…

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Osu Kannon Style Okonomiyaki with Miso Soup and a Rad Grapefruit Chu Hi

Boom!

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Stay Rad Wine Blog TV Episode 49: Does Meric Have Merit?

June 19, 2012

In this episode Jeff tries another Cru Bourgeois from 2009, and looks for advice on his upcoming trip to Japan.

Wine Tasted:

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Chateau Meric 2009 Medoc

Pairing:

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Grilled Chili Lime Spiced Chicken and Corn with a Clean Green Salad topped with Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Going home… Wherever that is.

July 27, 2011

My father is a retired math teacher.

Every year, during the first week of school, he would show his students a video.  The only film to be viewed in his class all year.  Why?  “It’s the only movie that matters.” he would tell me.

The movie?

Donald in Mathmagic Land!

Check it out... Square Roots!

It’s a wonderful 27 minute animation, following Donald Duck’s learning of the magic of geometry from a voice in the woods.  Since my dad only showed it in his class once a year, the video stayed in our video cabinet for the other 364 days of the year.  As short as the film was, and with as much time as I had in my day, I would watch this film often as a child.

My favorite part of this one is when Donald Duck first realizes that he is lost.  First, he notices that all the birds have right triangles for beaks.  Then he sees that the trees look kind of strange.  He walks right up to one of them, and says in his ducky voice, “Well, whatdayaknow?  Square Roots!”

I thought that line was hilarious.  You can only imagine how stoked I was when I got to actually learn about square roots in school.  “Square roots!” I would shout in my math class while working on problems.

“You’re weird!” random pretty girls would say back to me.

Sorry.

I’m getting off topic.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ROOTS lately…

The Roots

"Roots! Bloody roots!" - Sepultura

"Don't forget your roots!" - H2O

A friend of ours just visited us from Japan.  She moved out there with her boyfriend a year ago.

She mentioned to us that in the time she’s been back in the USA, she’s started to feel homesick.  That’s a funny kind of thing.  A girl born and raised in Sunnyvale missing her home… Her home of one year.  Japan!

It’s funny.

It’s funny how our sense of home can change.

It’s funny how I can relate.

You know that I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Ben Lomond, California, to be specific.  To those who I figure don’t know, or don’t care to know, about Ben Lomond… I just tell them I’m from Santa Cruz.  Not entirely true, but close enough.

Though I never lived in the city of Santa Cruz, I guess I could consider it my “home town”.  From the time I was old enough to ride the bus on my own, Santa Cruz was my play ground.  Once I learned how to drive, it was on.

Walking Pacific Avenue just to see what I could see.

Hitting up the Boardwalk to seek a thrill.

Working at the Boardwalk… and Juice World… and Streetlight Records… to get some scratch.

Going to punk rock shows.

Playing punk rock shows.

Cruising in the 1985 Honda Accord hatchback with my buddies from West Cliff to East Cliff and back.

Bonfires on the beach.

Bar hopping.

Santa Cruz is where I grew up.

Ben Lomond, however, is my home…

Well…

Ben Lomond was my home.

In 2002, while I was getting my credential at San Jose State, my folks sold the house in Ben Lomond and moved to Reno, Nevada.  Good for them.  The house is really nice.  Good for me.  When I go to Reno, I don’t have to pay for a hotel room.

But…

In a way…

Bad for me.

Bad for me because now that my parents don’t live in Ben Lomond any more, I don’t have a reason to go back to my home town.

As far as Santa Cruz goes, there are plenty of reasons to go there… I just don’t.  At least… not as often as I should.

It’s funny.

It’s funny that over the last 10 years San Jose has become my new home.

It’s where I went to college.  It’s where I made my career.  It’s where I fell in love.

It’s funny that for the last two years, I’ve lived in Morgan Hill.  It’s where I bought a home.  It’s where I got married.  It’s where I spend all my time.

It’s where I write this blog.

But let’s get back to my roots.

This morning, Kara and I went for a run…

in Santa Cruz.

Here are some pictures that Kara took with her phone (I should get one of those)…

West Cliff

Natural Bridges

It was such a beautiful, relaxing run.

We started at Lighthouse Beach State Park, right next to the Surfer Boy Statue.  The run took us along the West Cliff trail to Natural Bridges and back.

It was beautiful.

I saw the Monterey Bay.

I saw the birds, and mussels, and ice plants.

I saw the people.

The locals.  I was one once.

The tourists.  I am one now.

Dogs.

Bikes.

And I smelled it.  The ocean.  The briny briny sea.

It made me think of scallops.

It made me want some food.

Food!

Let’s do this!

After the run, Kara and I drove over to 99 Bottles on Walnut Ave. (between Pacific and Cedar) in downtown SC.

We sat on the patio…

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Here’s what I had…

Big Daddy IPA

The 99 Burger

Pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce, and the secret mustard-mayo sauce.

The beer was great.  Nice and hoppy up front, with a crisp finish.  The perfect beer to go with a burger.

The burger?  Meh… It was all right.  The condiments were really nice, but the actual burger… It wasn’t that great.  The meat was a little over-cooked.  It came off as being really crumbly.  I think whoever formed the burger from the ground beef squished it a little too much.  It’s the type of burger that you need a good beer with… to make you forget it.

Look…

Lunch was nice, and I really enjoyed going back to my roots… back to Santa Cruz…

BUT…

I was itching to leave.

I was ready to go home.

HOME.

Morgan Hill, California.

Stay Rad,

Jeff


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