Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Greek Feast, 2005 Amethystos & 2006 Kouros

Whipped Caviar Tarama, Yogurt Tzatziki, Eggplant Melitzanisalata, Fassolia Beans, Manestra Pasta, Kalamaria, Dolmathes, Keftethes, Spanakopita, Pastitsio,…

These were some of the wonderful Greek dishes I had with my family in the later half of yesterday. Not exactly a traditional Independence Day fares, which usually involve lots of BBQ’s, beers and red Californian zinfandel. Let's just say we celebrated the 4th of July the Greek-American way at a popular local Greek restaurant not more than 5 minutes from where we live, called The Great Greek.

A bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champage got our appetite going as a starter beverage. And then a red 2005 Amethythos and a white 2006 Kouros accompanied the sumptuous Greek feast we had.

The non-vintage Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin is a nice standard fare Champagne…toasty, yeasty, with fine bubbles. It hit the spot well.

The 2006 Kouros, a white wine made from Rhoditis (aka: Roditis) grape variety, is from the southern part of Greece near Patras. This wine tasted dry and a bit citrussy, which went very well with the first course dishes of Greek salad, various creamy, whipped dips and other meze. It reminded me of a simple but pleasant Californian Sauvignon Blanc table wine. 2 stars (quite good).

The 2005 Amethystos from Adriani, Drama, is a blend of local Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Limnio, an indigenous Greek red wine grape variety. This wine apparently was aged in large, 225 litre French Limousin oak barrels for a year before being released. Lots of blueberry, some earthiness, talcum, and a bit of good funk. The tannin is quite pronounced, and the oak soft and judicious. Quite delicious. 3 stars (good, recommended).

I ended the meal with a plate Galaktobouriko, which personally was a bit too runny and salty for a dessert. A cup of super concentrated Greek coffee with a side of sticky sweet compliment called Loukomi ended the meal.

But what is a Greek feast without some live music and dance…

Friday, July 4, 2008

1950's Shui Xian Oolong

Happy 4th!

Something special deserves its own moment. When it comes to a unique tea, it means finding a calm and casual window of time to savor it. The morning of July 4th was such that I decided to open a small package from The Tea Gallery containing 25gr of 1950’s Shui Xian oolong. I’ve been meaning to try this old tea out since it arrived 2 weeks ago, but a calm enough morning has been a rarity these days.

Upon opening the packet, I dived my nose into the mylar bag and took a few short, successive sniffs. There wasn’t much to nose about, however. Whatever mild scent present was reminiscent of old parchments with a hint of something sweet.

The leaves were quite broken, with about equal amount of larger-sized ones and the small bits. Five or six decades of handling and storage tend to do that to lightly rolled tea leaves. There were also about an equal amount of brown and black leaves in the mix. The black ones have some sheen about them.

This was to be the oldest Wuyi oolong that I’ve ever tried to date.

I filled my small, thin-walled 75ml Yixing pot half-full of dry leaves (1/2 full is a personal preference when it comes to Wuyi teas). I did everything carefully, as one would when handling something so old and fragile. I poured the water gently, in small stream, aimed at the rim of the pot’s opening so as not roil the leaves within.

The pre-rinse was done in a flash, and the resulting liquor was muddy, dull dark-brown…not pretty, but it reinforced the perception of its antiquity somehow. I drank the pre-rinse and it felt clean, light and airy, with a taste of old parchments (again). It was very smooth, though not much else.

The next infusion yielded a less muddy tone, and subsequent infusions thereafter would yield redder and clearer tea soup. By the second brew (third, including the pre-rinse), I suddenly felt quite woozy. The force was strong with this tea, and so I stopped to take a bite of sustenance before proceeding further.

On the third brew, suddenly this tea seemed to have awakened from its long slumber. The liquor became tastier and the aftertaste more pronounced. Though I wouldn’t regard it as complex tasting, in its simplicity and straightforwardness hid something pleasant, and that is the chaqi and its ability to leave a lasting aftertaste. With each sip, after the liquor slid down the throat smoothly, the ghost of it produced an intense salivation effect that left a long, sweet aftertaste. It’s a wonderful sensation altogether.

As with the pre-rinse, all subsequent infusions remained light, airy and extremely smooth. Its subtle perfume was not found in the liquor, but rather on the bottom of the empty cup...there lies a treat for your nose!

The packet of 25 grams doesn’t go a long way. There is only enough left for 1 more session. Is it worth the price? Insofar discovery is concerned, I think so.

4 stars (VG. Good chaqi and lasting aftertaste)