Some of the candles that we sell in the Barn:
Thank goodness it’s that time of year again! The Barn will be opening up for the season in the few days and we are really looking forward to unpacking all those boxes of new product that will be arriving over the next couple of months. To start us off we have just received some excellent little garden helpers: #1 The Soil Scoop The ultimate in versatility! Unlike the average trowel, the Soil Scoop acts as a natural extension of your hand because you dig towards yourself with the point down. This motion reduces bending stress on your wrist when gardening. Whether you plant, cut or dig, the Soil Scoop is sure to become your favorite ‘do it all’ tool. Mine doesn’t leave my side all season long. #2 The Monster Scoop is a specialty soil scoop perfect for carving pumpkins. This one-of-a-kind tool makes cleaning a pumpkin for carving ‘frighteningly’ easy! Scrape the inside of your Jack-o-Lantern bare with the serrated teeth, then scoop out the gooey inside with minimal effort. The shorter, non-slip handle is very kid friendly. #3 Grubbers Tough gloves for really dirty jobs! Extremely durable yet lightweight and comfortable to wear. Nitrile coating & reinforced fingertips. Available in 3 sizes. Lastly #4 The Tiger Trowel This is the only tool you’ll need for planting bulbs and removing weeds! Like it’s namesake, the Tiger Trowel uses the combination of power, strength and agility to create a tool for nearly every gardening task imaginable. Dig with it, plant with it, cut with it, pry with it – there are a few earth working jobs you won’t find the trowel useful for. Rubberized handle for a sure grip; rust free 16 gauge stainless serrated steel blade; planting depths marked in inches; forked tip is excellent for removing dandelions and other weeds.
Find all at the Walpole Barn! Opening soon for the new season – check our Facebook page for updates regarding our opening dates.
Somebody in Motown had to be thinking of Port when they wrote the classic song: “ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby”… cause there’s only one place that real Port comes from….and that’s Oporto Portugal. California, South Africa and Australia try but don’t quite make it. Their attempts remind me of a comment I once heard: “when I hear Tom Jones sing I realize how good Elvis really was.” As Champagne comes from a specific place and is produced in a traditional way, Port is more so. There are 48 authorized grapes varieties for Port, and the Douro is THE place on earth to find them…..end of story.
My introduction was Christmas 1974 in a restored Welsh farmhouse on the island of Anglesey, owned by my future mother-in-law Marjorie Craven-Walker. ‘Hafod Wen’ overlooked Red Wharf Bay and the Irish Sea. With glistening whitewashed stone walls, slate roofs and glass fronted living room, it nestled into a hillside positioned to catch the sun and avoid the winds that drove so many 18th and 19th sailing ships on to the rocky coast below. If you’ve ever had Christmas Dinner and Boxing Day leftovers with the Brits you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say… “Just when you think you can’t possibly eat or drink another thing”… a wheel of Stilton and spoon appear, surrounded by bottles of Port… what a hardship! I knew then I had come a long way from Brooklyn, whether I’d be invited back was another story.
The Stilton was from Melton Mowbry, family tradition was to purchase a wheel, cut it horizontally storing one half and serving the other….leaving it out for days to be spooned mercilessly until all that remained was a fragile craterous shell. When the: “wretched thing looked unappetizingly pathetic with bits of blue and white clinging for dear life”…the second wheel was summoned. The Port on the other hand was constantly renewed. Thankfully Bim (her nickname) was a true aficionado, there seemed to be an endless supply of all types of Port including two cases of a 1947 vintage “put down” way before I came on the scene. I shall spare you all the details I learned about the family that weekend… things like Great Uncle Gronway who once fell out of an airplane, was run over by the same car twice (backing up to see what they hit) and was locked in a refrigerated cargo hold of a ship crossing the Atlantic…
I shall now pass on what I’ve learned about Port:
There are 10 different styles of Port, let’s ignore most of them and concentrate on what we see in most stores. Ruby, Tawny, Late Bottle Vintage (LBV), and Vintage.
Ruby is the least complex and the least expensive. It has virtually no bottle age and is a blend of young wines from different years all of which have been barreled or tanked for two to three years.
Tawny has two categories, young and aged. Young Tawny is less than three years old and is uncomplicated and light colored….Aged Tawny is either 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old. It’s a blend of the highest quality ports left to mature in the barrel where over time they take on a nutty vanilla flavor and silky texture, then bottled to age gently. Their color changes from a deep ruby red to Tawny. Experts tell me 20 year old Tawny’s are the ones to drink.
Late Bottle Vintage Ports are of a single vintage from good, not great years. They’re aged in the barrel four to six years then bottled. Though LBV’s are in the wood for 2 years longer than Vintage Port, they are not substantial enough to age for long periods of time (decades) in the bottle. I think these are good value.
Vintage Port represents only two to three percent of total production. They are the most expensive and most sought after, and are produced in only the best years. All the grapes without question come from the finest vineyards in the Douro. Bottled at 2 before it’s had a chance to shed its harsh tannins, it requires an enormous amount of bottle aging. Anything before 20 years and you’re considered impatient. I’ve heard stories about 70 year old Port…can you imagine the amount of sediment?
Deb and I have travelled quite an arc since that Christmas in ’74. My mother-in-law, who I loved so very much, embraced me with the elegance and grace of a most extraordinary life. Bim’s war time diaries chronicling her years in the WRAF were posthumously published and are a constant reminder of a life well lived… and when I see the video of my daughter Elinor, on her last visit together with her Nain (Welsh for granny) drinking a glass of wine on a patio in Tuscany, I hear that wonderful English accent as she leans close to her, and says with the same wry smile the words she said to me all those years ago: “drink slowly my dear….this is the good stuff.”
All the best,
Monday evenings at the 1812 Barn down the road in Bristol, King Eider’s Pub holds their weekly Trivia competition. Teams as large as 20 and as small as 2 (last weeks winners) graciously compete trying to answer 30 questions divided into 6 categories. Math not being everyone’s strong suit, that’s 5 questions per category.
On Monday March 15th one of the categories was wine… well not wine as such… it was the proper spelling of wine. There were soft ball questions like Cabernet Sauvignon, middle difficulty when you heard it pronounced, like Rioja… and yes the one I got wrong… Gewürztraminer… a shameful mistake on my part.
Not only do we sell wine here at The Walpole Barn, not only do we sell the fore mentioned Gewurztraminer… not only had I opened a bottle the night before with dinner, not only am I of Austrian descent and have visited a vineyard that produces it… I actually brought a bottle of it with me that evening to give to John Hanlon.
Tramin is a village in the (German-speaking) Northern part of Italy. For those of you have skied or trekked the Dolomites you’ve probably enjoyed the ubiquitous house white. GEWURZ (no T) means spicy. Not in the kitchen spice rack sense, rather in the boldness of the wine…it’s strong floral aromas, gingerbread, grapefruit, and smokey minerality. The best most complex and driest Gewürztraminers come from Alsace… Germany produces fruitier but less spicy wine, Austria often bottles a sweet version so be careful, Italy where they call it Terlano (after the town) or Traminer Aromatico, is the birthplace of the grape. We rarely see any of it exported to the States. In the U.S. a small amount is planted in the cooler parts of California, ie: Monterey and the Russian River Valley. These wines are off-dry, quite floral on the nose with honeysuckle and vanilla on the palate.
Whichever way you spell it, when you drink Gewürztraminer I think you’ll enjoy this wonderfully exotic grape. It’s a deep colored full-bodied white wine, tends to be high in sugar and low in acid, that means the wine is usually high in alcohol. Because acidity is low they age quickly……and also have high extract. When you read the term extract try to think of what would be left over if you boiled off all the water and anything else that could evaporate…extract on the palate comes across as an impression of substance and character.
I can’t believe I’ve written all of this because I misspelled one word. Luckily as far as this blog is concerned I have spell check. It never fails…I always spell misspelled with one “S”.
All the Best.
My father-in-law religiously followed the maxim made famous by the food critic Waverly Root….“drink wine everyday at lunch and dinner, and the rest of life will take care of itself.” When I met Craven Walker for the first time in 1975 he took me to a small barn on his property (The New Forest, England) flung open the doors and proudly pointed to a hundred cases of Rioja….yes, 100 cases. Judging by the amount of wine we consumed that evening (four of us), I calculated he owned way less than a year’s supply.
It was bad enough being an American, but when I told him I never heard of Rioja I could see the look in his eyes…what has Debora done.
That evening I learned about red wine. There was no California, there was no Chile, no New Zealand, or Australia. There was only France and now Spain. Spain according to Craven was the future…..and trust me, standing there was forty years of experienced drinking, we’re talking the best of what Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone had to offer.
Fast forward 35 years, Craven is gone, but he left his children and grand children a love of wine, fine food and adventure. Along with his Lava Lamps, (Edward Craven Walker was the inventor of the lava lamp) he gave them a desire to try new things without prejudice, and to always remember, it’s not the quality of the lead crystal in the glass that matters, it’s what’s in the glass. How I wish he were here today, boy do I have a Rioja for him…a 2004 Sierra Cantabria Crianza. He’d love it.
Rioja is Spain’s oldest wine producing region. It lies in the center of Northern Spain where the climate is cool and there’s some variation in altitude. Typically it is a combination of 60% to 80% Tempranillo, with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo completing the blend and giving the wine its unique taste. There are three levels of Riojas: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, all are classified according to age and quality of the grapes.
Crianza: is the youngest: Minimum one year in the wood and one year in the bottle. A good Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday wine. Made with okay/good grapes. Easy drinking best with simple foods.
Reserva: released after three years of aging, at least one year in the wood and two years in the bottle. Superior growths from prime locations. Don’t for a moment think all Reservas are equal. They are all good, some are better, and others are off the charts. You need to try more than one and make up your own mind. Not long ago I drank one that was aged 30 months in the wood and spent nearly 3 years in the bottle. It was priced like a Reserva should be priced, and drank like you hoped a Gran Reserva would drink. Structure, character, complexity and balance, all that and less than $20.00….has the Euro tanked???.
Gran Reservas: The rules require from 5 to 7 years aging with a minimum of two years in the wood. In practice many are aged 8 years or more. They are rare, made only from great vintages and the best grapes. Usually Gran Reservas represent less than 10% of wine produced in that year. I keep searching for the “one” but my mojo hasn’t clicked. How about yours….have you any suggestions?
If you want to know what food to pair a wine with, look at what they farm and cook in the region where the wine is made. Rioja is a region of down to earth foods and simple cooking techniques. Braised, grilled, roasted, stewed and boiled. Game, grilled lamb, beef, vegetable stews and casseroles, ham, asparagus, potatoes, chorizo, peppers, and salads. My recommendation…..try Rioja with a greasy gyro.
Yes, it’s a well kept secret – your electric drip coffee machine will never be able to provide you with a ‘really’ good cup of coffee. The reason? The water is not hot enough and the coffee does not have time to ‘brew.’ Want to know how to make the perfect cup? The solution is both simple and ‘clever.’
Visit The Walpole Barn and see for yourself. The Clever Coffee Dripper is priced at $13.90
Years ago in a former incarnation I found myself in Dallas for a major showroom opening. The after dinner speaker that evening was Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus fame, the Mahatma Gandhi of high-end retail. Sometime after 9:00 pm he stood up and without ever glancing at a note, held everyone in the palm of his hand for over twenty minutes. He closed with following comment which I have never forgotten. He said: “I am 80 years old and there has been only one thing…one rule that has remained constant my whole life.” Everybody, and I mean everybody in that room held their breath and waited, it was as if he was about to tell us the meaning of life. Stanley Marcus continued: “in my whole life the only rule you could count on was….everything changes.”
Now, how does that relate to wine?
Once upon a time, wine producers needed only to be concerned with the “reach” of their distributor and the power of branding…not anymore. Vineyards and wineries have gone viral. Europe, South Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia, all have exploded, and in the U.S.A. over 35 states produce wine. The marketplace is filled with savvy experienced customers. It’s hard to find a wine drinker who doesn’t know where Rioja is from or who Robert Parker is. At the very least everyone can count, 91 points has got to be better than 87 (right?).
Wine can be bought everywhere, and I am here to tell you that you can buy good wine almost everywhere. Don’t let price misguide you. There is wonderful wine to be had between $8.00 and $18.00…yes I said eight dollars. The oversupply of good “juice” is a global phenomenon. Between the over expansion of the industry and the current recession, vineyards have excess tonnage. Obscure blenders are buying grapes for a fraction of what they might have paid in the past, for varietals of a quality they never could have access too. Last year a blender/ bottler named Redtree produced a Pinot Noir that was a staggering pour….price: $6.99 in California, $8.99 in Maine if you could get it. (I tried but couldn’t). In Europe, cooperatives are creating value never seen before, while famous vineyards throughout the Continent try to figure out what to do with yet another excellent vintage and the attendant high yields. All of this has got to be good news for us.
They say Pinot Noir is a white wine masquerading as a red. If that’s true it has to be the perfect bottle to bring along when you’re not sure of what’s being served. Fish, fowl, vegetarian, you can’t go wrong. It’s said you can read the New York Times through a glass of it. If anybody manages to do that please come out to the Barn, we need to talk.