A little less than a year ago, on Monday December 4. the Thomas Fire erupted near Thomas Aquinas College between Santa Paula and Ojai off highway 150. In spoken word performance piece that I co-created with Rasika Mathur and performed with her at the Lobero Theater, I point out that the Thomas Fire was started by “Thomas” Edison and I ask whether it will convince Doubting Thomas of climate change. At the event, Rob Write also performed the song featured in the video below.
This was on the heels of fires that burned 300 acres of vines in Chile in January 2017, burned much of northern Portugal’s Douro and Spain’s Galicia over the summer of 2017, and hit Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino counties HARD in the fall of 2017. Details on these fires and more here.
I’ve always thought that wine was a way to get people to care about climate change — because climate is impacting grape growing regions, and how grapes ripen or get damaged by weather and climatic conditions. But I’d never thought about the relationship between climate change and fire and wine until more recently.
If there were any Climate Change Doubting Thomas’s still out there, I can’t imagine they can be that way any more after the fires of 2018 which threaten the harvest in Mendocino and Lake with smoke taint.
And then, since the two fires here started Thursday between 2 and 2:30pm, the Camp Fire torched the town of Paradise to the ground in less than a day and is now the most costly fire ever, and the Woolsey Fire which caused hundreds of thousands of people as well as their pets and the animals at the Malibu Wine Safari to evacuate in the past 24 hours as it relentless raged its way from the Thousand Oaks are to the Pacific Ocean. (It’s really not funny but have you ever thought how you’d evacuate a giraffe in a hurry?)
All of this has been on my mind — not just because it is impossible for me to avoid and escape the devastation of the Thomas Fire on my home town, but because I suggested we focus on wines from fire hit regions for Wine Pairing Weekend this month of November, a month where we traditionally stop and reflect on what we’re grateful for.
And there is always much to be grateful for.
Friends of mine who live in Paradise lost their homes– and their daughter and her children lost their home too. But he posted one word on Facebook– Grateful – because he is: they got out alive and they’re all together.
But last January when I suggested that I host this month with a theme about “Rising Together From the Ashes” and contemplating what we’re grateful for, I didn’t realize that I’d be writing the post and composing the twitter chat question while we’d literally once again be in a cloud of smoke and haunted by the steady stream of bad news as the wind whips the fire and sends it racing across the ridge tops toward the wide expanse of water — the Pacific.
So I must admit, I am more subdued than I thought I would be. Earlier this week I was thrilled to finally open a very special wine: a 2001 Vin de Soleil from The Ojai Vineyard. But the news on Thursday about the shooting and then the fires, and then the rapid progression of the fires on Friday, and news of people evacuating and losing their homes, has been disturbing. Photos of fire from the back yard of friends has inundated my Facebook feed — as well as photos after the fire has moved on, and thanks to first responders, they and their pets and property were ok.
I bought this wine from The Ojai Vineyard a few years ago. I had stopped by the tasting room to get my wine club shipment, and I learned that it had recently been found. I love GSMs, and I was intrigued by the label — it reminded me of home, and sitting in the sun, and the vintage was a 2001, and in 2001 I bought my house, so I went for it. And because the 2002 was more mourvedre while the 2002 was more grenache, and I LOVE mourvedre, well, I decided to go for that one as well.
But why open it for this event? Beyond the fact that The Ojai Vineyard is an Ojai winery, and the fire came right up to the edge of the winery, yesterday — Friday Nov 9 — is the day escrow closed on my house back in 2001. I’d been living here since 1997 as a renter, and it felt SO AWESOME to own the house myself. Every year in November, I’ve thought about opening that bottle of wine to celebrate buying and owning my own house. But this year, I did it.
And I didn’t even notice until today that the cozy label is not just the sun, but of FLAMES.
2017 – Ojai Vineyard – Rose with 51% Syrah from Roll Ranch, Ojai
2001 – Vin Du Soleil GSM Purisma Mountain Vineyard Santa Barbara County
- Shrimp Bisque: Ventura County is famous for being on the sea and for fresh seafood so I went to the fisherman’s market at the Ventura Harbor and bought locally caught shrimp which we made into the bisque.
- Green salad: Ventura County is famous for our produce, particularly our citrus so we made a salad with avocado, pixie oranges, pomegranate seeds, pistachios and a honey tangerine vinaigrette.
- Seared Duck Breasts with pomegranate sauce
- Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted root vegetables
2017 – Ojai Vineyard – Rose – 12.5% alcohol SRP $28
This is a bit of a pricy rose, but it is special, small lot, with 51% superb Syrah from Roll Ranch in upper Ojai. Learn more about Roll Ranch here.
Color: Coral, super pale orange in the bottle, in the glass it is even more pale.
Nose: Beautiful with the most lovely floral notes, gardenia, citrus blossom, with nice undertones of minerals, carnation, nice ripe Bartlett pear.
Palate: Pleasing, clean bright, citrus and a bit of the pear as it rolls across the tongue.
Pairing: The soup brings a zingy vitality to the rose. When the duck had the fresh crispness of the pomegranate seed in the bite it was lovely, otherwise it was a bit too rich for the wine to handle.
When thinking of pairing this rose with a meal, stick to a welcome drink and bite or soup salad courses. Appetizers go well with this wine, but it would also be nice with a pork loin. Duck is very rich and was much bigger than this wine. It would be great with seafood or even a seafood salad. Sue was thinking it might be nice with a Crab Louie salad; great with our salad.
2001 – Vin Du Soleil
72% Grenache, 14% Mourvedre, 14% Syrah
I think I paid about $60 for this very special wine; the 2002 is available at $125.
After the cork would not come out nicely, we were not sure that this wine would hold up but I’m very grateful that I was able to get the cork out safely and the wine was not damaged in anyway; it was only the end of the cork that had been exposed to air. We had tasted a number of older Ojai Vineyard wines a few years ago — and several of them were well past their prime so I was getting anxious.
Color: Kind of an orange, lots of sediment. If someone served this to you on a date or at a wine bar, unless you knew it was an older wine, you would possibly question the appearance — until you took a sip!
Nose: Bright and vibrant after so many years. Baking spice, cigar box, snuff, raisin, carnation snuff, baking spice snuff, cranberry, pomegranate.
Palate: There is such a silkiness, and the acidity is still so vibrant and alive. This is an aged wine, and there was a fear of it losing its appeal quickly, but it actually held up remarkably well. Cherry cola, and an herbal quality on the finish, at first sarsaparilla root beer, then as it lingers, an herbal loveliness. This wine definitely has a contemplative quality.
Palate: So great with our shrimp/lobster bisque! What wonderful surprise! It loved the rich flavors, and the lingering finish of the two are so amazing, it brings out an earthy quality in the wine and stays in your mouth pleasantly for a very long time. The grenache is still so bright and acidic after all these years. It liked the roasted veggies (the herbs de Provence really went well with this wine) and the potatoes just fine. When it came to the duck, because of the vibrancy, it handled the richness of the duck beautifully, it cut through the richness and allowed the duck to have all of the flavor without being overwhelming. The duck was the ballerina and the wine was the base that allowed the ballerina to shine… or it could be the other way around? May have gone both ways.
The rich meal was such a compliment with our lovely rich wines. We are so grateful!
What will other people be posting about and tweeting about this Saturday at 8am Pacific?
- Nancy Brazil of Pull That Cork presents “Failla Hudson Vineyard Syrah & Moroccan Lamb Tagine #WinePW”
- David Crowley of Cooking Chat” suggests “Butternut Squash Risotto with Roasted Garlic and Sonoma Wine.”
- Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table will “Uphold Ribolla Gialla with Crispy Pork Chops & Braised Cabbage to support California Fire Relief”
- Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on the Farm says “Let me tell you a story.”
- Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is “Celebrating Sonoma:
Lamb Lollipops with Cranberry-Apple Mostarda + Wild Ridge Pinot Noir 2014.
- On Wine Predator we offer “Together We Rise: The Ojai Vineyard’s 2001 GSM for #WinePW.”