In a recent New Yorker review (“No Time,” May 26), Elizabeth Kolbert puts out some theories about why we’re all so busy.
One is that “busyness has acquired social status. The busier you are the more important you seem.” In other words, “keeping up with the Joneses now means trying to out-schedule them.”
I’ve been complaining for years about this phenomenon. When I was living in the D.C. area, I assumed it was indigenous to the East Coast. But Davisites are busy, too. Half my friends have retired — and we’re still too busy to do half the things we want to do (or say we want to do): Relax. Unwind. Read novels. Hang out. Smell the roses. Grow thyme.
My own (often unsuccessful) attempts not to succumb to “busier than thou” seem to center on food. I eat, for example, a moderately slow breakfast every morning accompanied by a moderately slow cup (preferably two or three) of slow-brewed tea. Alas, it’s all too easy to spend that time thinking and talking about the day ahead. “What’s on your agenda?” has become a daily breakfast query.
“Nothing,” hardly seems a respectable or even responsible answer — though in any sane world it would suffice.
Thus it has become the sitting-down-to-dinner ritual that bears the burden of severing me — both physically and mentally — from business and busyness. And it’s the pop of the cork that prompts my cleansing breath.
Some bottles, I find, elicit this Pavlovian response better than others. Just looking forward to them seems to focus my attention on the moment, slow me down, attenuate anxieties. If, for example, I knew that tonight I’d be drinking a bottle of Champalou Les Fondraux 2012 Vouvray, my entire afternoon would seem just a little less harried.
I hardly need say that the wine is lovely. I wrote in the last column about the wonders of chenin blanc in our area, so when John at Valley Wine pointed out this Kermit Lynch selection, I jumped at the chance to try a good French version. This one seems designed just for the word “luscious.” Made by Catherine and Didier Champalou (recently joined in their winemaking by daughter Céline), this wine comes from organically farmed grapes grown in clay, limestone and siliceous soils.
Lush indeed. But not at all heavy or cloying. It starts out with a burst of honey and nuts, then calms to pear and citrus elegance with good acidity and a long, long finish. Paired with fresh halibut, it just kept getting better as dinner went on. And on. Unfortunately, the wine didn’t last long enough (and yes, I was half responsible for this) to try with the fresh strawberry dessert. I may have to buy another bottle next time I can splurge ($22 at VWC).
Happily, Valley Wine has been stocking wines in the $10 range that I look forward to drinking almost as much, like the Laurent Miquel Père et Fils 2012 rosé. From the Languedoc area of France, it’s 80 percent cinsault and 20 percent syrah. It practically explodes with strawberries and blueberries before finishing with lots of zesty citrus.
It’s perfect with summer vegetables, spicy food, fishy things and is one of those wines that makes you want to sit out on your porch or patio and listen to the busy world carry on. Or, better yet, to our summer birds. At just $10 a bottle, it’s an amazing value. When I went back to VWC for my second bottle, John said he has tasted a lot of awful rosés of late; one of best perks of frequenting this local wine source is that he doesn’t carry them.
Also French, also at Valley Wine — and to date my most exciting summer wine bargain — is the Domaine du Tarquet Classic 2013 from Gascony. Dry but fruity and intense, it opens with floral and citrus and moves on to passion fruit and pineapple. It’s hard to believe that this bracing and mouth-filling wine has only 10.5 percent alcohol — and costs only $8.
Made by the Grassa family expressly to reflect the terroir of Gascony soils, it’s a blend of the area’s traditional ugni blanc and colombard — with added dollops of sauvignon blanc and gros manseng. Like the above rosé, it’s immensely food-friendly and worked beautifully with our beet and beet greens lemon pasta (made with Lloyd’s meaty elongated beets — get them at Farmers Market).
Daughter Julian recently provided us a delightful wine-to-banish-busy. It’s an Italian sparkler — not a Prosecco — called Terrafiaba, 45 percent Malvasia di candia aromatica, 40 percent ortrugo and 15 percent trebbiano, it’s made from whole cluster grapes and tastes of honeysuckle and lemon. More bubbly than many Proseccos, it’s alive with flavor, finishing light, dry and happy.
It comes from the Emelia Romagna region (between the River Po to the north and the Apennine Mountains to the south). And like Prosecco and fellow dry sparklers, it’s incredibly food-friendly, especially toward the lighter dishes of the hot season. I served it with a beet flan appetizer and fresh pasta (from Pasta Dave at Farmers Market) topped with a tomato and smoked trout sauce. I worried that the thick, rich sauce would overwhelm it, but it cut right through and held its own while bringing out the gentle sweetness of the tomatoes.
I haven’t found it in Davis, but Julian picked it up at her neighborhood wine source, The Bottle Shop in Berkeley, for about $15.
If you find yourself not-too-busy some early summer evening, sit down at Monticello Seasonal Cuisine’s bar and enjoy a glass of another delightful summer wine, the Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal. Vinho Verde is nearly always refreshing and simple, but this one, with its notes of lemon, grapefruit and roses, is almost elegant.
If you come for your glass on a Tuesday between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., I’ll be there doing my weekly tasting. Join me. Introduce yourself. We can chat.
If I’m not too busy.
— Reach Susan Leonardi at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com