Friday, August 17, 2007

Rhubarb wine

A few weeks ago Joel and I were up on Whidbey Island in Washington, and we stopped in with my aunt at the Whidbey Island Winery. We tasted about six wines, a few of which I really liked. The wine I liked most was made with a grape I'd never heard of called Madeleine Angevine. What a nice name. It sounds delicate and tragic. And the wine—I would do a better job describing it if I opened one of the bottles we brought home right now, but no, I couldn't do that. It's a weekday and not yet after 4:00 p.m.—the wine was very light, slightly herby, and the tiniest bit citrusy. It was like drinking the shade of a summer afternoon.

Looking over the list of wines we hadn't tried, I saw they made a rhubarb wine. I asked what it tasted like but couldn't get a good sense of it beyond, "It's unique." So we bought a bottle, and then the other night we opened it to drink with a dinner of grilled pork chops with a lemon, caper, parsley sauce and new potatoes steamed and dressed in white wine and olive oil. The experience was, as promised, "unique."

First Joel tried it. He sipped and then made the face that I make whenever I try Campari. A face that indicates a total disbelief that the liquid in hand is anything but toxic. And then he said, "It tastes weird." So already I'm getting some cognitive dissonance, because the face and the comment don't jive. So i try it. And it tastes...not so bad. Almost like grape wine but a little earthier.

Oh, I'd also made a experimental dressing for the salad using the grapefruit I'd used to show how awesome the microplane is, and along with the grapefruit vinaigrette, the lemony sauce on the pork, and the white wine on the potatoes, the flavors and pitches of the food made each new sip of the wine taste completely different. My last sip, taken just after a bite of salad, tasted really bad: bitter and sour, sort of like rhubarb that hasn't been all tarted up yet. I've never had the experience of a flavor that changes so much with each new sip.

The next day I took the rest to a picnic to see what other people thought of it. Most people avoided it, but those brave few who took it on reported that it, "Was ok, but not something I'd rather drink more than wine," and "tastes pretty much like fermented rhubarb." But one person, A.J., sought it out and kept drinking it, and insisted that he actually liked it.

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