Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Zealand, December 2001 - Excerpt from The Life and Times of Love and Vines

Shehu and I had just returned from a Great Barrier Reef SCUBA diving trip in Mission Beach, North Queensland, Australia, followed by a few more South Island
adventures in New Zealand in our 1982 Nissan Vanette, affectionately named “Mac”. In this passage, we are in Queenstown staying at a friend’s home and doing temp work while we prepare for our next adventure: The Milford Track, a legendary 3-day hike through what’s left of paradise!

December 9, 2001
Kim and Jane at Adstaff found us lots of work in Queenstown. We each worked two days, and then we found ourselves chilling at Steve Olsen’s crib getting ready to go on a three day camping trip in Milford Sound, a pristine, barely touched world of calm waters flanked by steep mountains, lush pure forests and majestic waterfalls. It’s the pride of New Zealand, a bona fide World Heritage site. Everyone who talks about their experience on “The Milford Track” seems to have trouble finding the words to describe wheat they’ve seen there.

As for driving through Arthur’s Pass and down the west coast, that can be described in two words: tumultuous rain. We drove out of Christchurch and right into a mass of
rain cloud many acres broad. Mac needed the shower after sitting idle for 3 weeks in the mildly urban Papanui neighborhood while we spent a week in Auckland and 2 weeks on Mission Beach doing just as little.

The waterfalls at Devil’s Punchbowl, just outside the tiny hamlet of Arthur’s Pass, were magnificent. It was worth a half hour hike in the rain to see, and the rivers that flowed out from under the falls were raging. These green, bushy hills lay at the north of the Craigieburn range where the club ski fields lay, and we reminisced as we drove through Springfield and past Porter Heights. Maybe we can return next year, if we get residency.

There were waterfalls everywhere coming down the West Coast. The jungle around Franz Josef glacier was lush and beautiful, but the rain made the town dreary. We could get no signal for our cell phone out there in the boonies. So we poked our heads into a couple of hostels and found the local pub, where we saw our first New Zealand rednecks. I figured they really didn’t see black people much (or at all) in these parts. They made some crack about us “getting lots of sun” or something.

From the upcoming book release:
The Life and Times of Love and Vines – The Travel Memoir of Rashida Veronique Serrant DWS

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall 2012 Back-to-Wine-School: Three Wine Books for Your Flipping and Sipping Pleasure

As a certified wine geek, I have amassed over the years a sizeable library of wine literature, from the novel-esque to the encyclopedic. Some I refer to on a regular basis, others give me pleasure just knowing that I own them, reminding me of the joy I had reading them when my eyes fall on their spines every now and then. There are some even that I procured and never actually read. Having said all that, it isn’t necessary to collect two shelves full of wine books if you just enjoy wine for pleasure. Nonetheless, there are a few books that the growing wine enthusiast should consider making shelf space for, as they can enhance your enjoyment of wine through better understanding. After all, the one thing I have learned about wine and its effect on people (other than a bit of alcohol-induced euphoria) is that the subject intrigues them, and as their thirst for wine grows, their thirst for deeper knowledge of wine grows. If you could commit to three wine books to have in your possession that will feed your interest, these are the ones I recommend:

First off, have a great book that gives you a thorough introduction to wine basics. The Windows on the World Wine Course by Kevin Zraly (Latest Edition, Sterling
Epicure 2012) was my first, the one that started the love affair. In it, Zraly brings you into the world of wine without drowning you in a deluge of technical information. This is a cover-to-cover must read that will give you a much better overall understanding. It is very nicely sectioned into bites you can digest, and by the end, you will feel like you have an inside scoop.

An alternative to Zraly’s book is Wine for Dummies by Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW and Ed McCarthy (5th Edition, John Wiley & Sons 2012). Written by one of my teachers and mentors, this is another great book to have on hand. Assuming you aren’t willing
to put the time and effort into reading a work like Windows all the way through, this is a great reference book for someone who just wants to understand a specific wine a little better in the moment (perhaps when considering buying a bottle or even while drinking it). If you are familiar with the “For Dummies” books, then you know the great features that make them easy to learn from.

In addition to the aforementioned books, having at least one other title to adorn your shelf makes sense if you have a growing interest in a particular region or type of wine. For example, I got myself a copy of Australian and New Zealand Wine for Dummies by Maryann Egan (Wiley Australia 2004) after having spent 1 ½ years living in that area of the world and becoming intimately acquainted with the wine industry there. The book helped me fill in some blanks, and in retrospect, I wish I had read it before my journey.
Books like that will be assets in helping you prepare for a trip to a wine region so you can make the most of it by having some advance knowledge of what to look for and expect and how to find the goodies! There are a variety of books in the black-and-yellow collection, including Champagne for Dummies by Ed McCarthy (IDG Books 1999), which gives lots of great anecdotes that help you really get acquainted with the people behind the magic!

Later on in 2007, Joƫlle Thomson, a New Zealand wine and food writer, published a wonderful work called Celebrating New Zealand Wine (New Holland 2004) in collaboration with photographer Andrew Coffey. I bought it as soon as I learned
about it. It turned out to be a wonderfully romantic photo series of New Zealand wine country with great prose about the people and the land, less educational than aesthetic but very satisfyingly so as I reminisced about the amazing experiences I had in Kiwiland while turning its pages over many a glass of Central Otago Pinot Noir. This is your third wine book must have – a book of wonderful wine country photography to flip through while you sip. A publication like this will give you what your other two books lack in vivid imagery. As much as I constantly feel compelled to remind my readers and students that wine is an agricultural product and the wine industry is a business driven by most of the same factors that drive any other, it is still important to remember and appreciate the romance of vineyards and wine drinking. It’s why you love it!

In the next installment of our Back-to-Wine-School series, we will look at wine classes and help you zero in on the one that will suit you best, whether you are considering a career in the industry, a trip to Napa Valley or the start of a collection for your drinking pleasure.

As always, your comments and questions are graciously welcomed!