“Change of plans,” Steele Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel

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A few years ago, we quit our country club membership because, well, it was expensive, we don’t golf, the pool was only open two and a half months out of the year, and we didn’t want to eat out as often as that required. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll reinstate it, as when I was a little kid I loved nothing more than riding my bike to the pool in the summer and spending the day there, and I will want that for my children as they get older despite living in a much larger city. In the meantime, however, we’ve taken those dues and joined all of the local museums, and we are surely members of these for life. Omaha has a rich and vibrant scene when it comes to museums and similar experiences, much more so than I realized when I moved here. Yesterday, on a July afternoon when we would likely have gone either to the zoo or the botanical gardens, the rain encouraged us to opt for something more in-doorsy. I made the suggestion that we go check out some art.

We arrived at the Joslyn at 3:52, only to discover that it closes at 4:00 on Sundays. No matter. Sonja grabbed Zooey, I grabbed Titus, and we headed upstairs to see the piece de resistance of the Joslyn Art Museum, what most refer to simply as “the Chihuly”. The creator, Dale Chihuly, is a celebrated glass blowing artist, and this parrticular piece of his work is two stories tall and the most colorful and intricate thing you’ve ever seen. Titus has spent a fair amount of his young life staring up at it, and it was fun to allow Zooey to have the experience for the first time. The eight minutes flew by and we were done. Back in the parking lot, I pulled out my phone and found that the Durham Museum was open for another hour. “Titus, do you want to go see trains?” Sonja asked. His emphatic “Yeah!” was all it took to get us there.

The Durham is situated in Omaha’s old Union Station, and is a special place in part because it was there that Sonja and I had our wedding reception. It is also wonderful in that it offers the most in-depth chronicle of Nebraska and, in particular, Omaha history of any place around. Titus and Zooey enjoyed running amuck in old train cars, and together they steered a street car — with luck back towards Omaha’s streets again in the near future. Toward the end, they even got to see an actual train go by. It was a pretty great afternoon, and I was thankful that the rain had caused us to avert course from our usual Saturday goings on.

Back home, Sonja’s mom and her husband had also averted course, their plans to spend time at a local vineyard that afternoon thwarted by the same rain that had landed us in train cars rather than a lion’s den. They agreed to come over for dinner and Sonja made her Mexican rice bowls. As usual, I found some wine to pair with dinner.

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I’ve been on a pretty serious Zinfandel kick lately, and it seemed like just the thing for what Sonja was preparing for dinner. I knew I had the Steele 2015 Zinfandel from Pacini Vineyard, and that sounded perfect to me so I pulled the cork and let it breathe for a good half hour, then poured everyone a glass. I recently wrote an open letter to Jed Steele, the winemaker, which you can read here if you’d like: https://itheewine.com/2018/07/17/an-open-letter-to-jed-steele/  I’m a huge fan of Steele and his wines, in part for his intense longevity with over fifty years in the winemaking industry, and in part because of the incredible QPR (Quality Price Ratio) boasted by almost every one of his wines. The Pacini Vineyard Zinfadel was certainly no exception.

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Though I’ve never met him in person, I’d say that another thing to admire about Jed is how “chill” he is, for want of a more precise descriptor. While so many producers of Zinfandel engage in this weird contest of one-upmanship, trumping “old vine” with “ancient vine” and so forth on their label, I admire that Jed just wrote “Zinfandel” despite the average age of the vines in Mendocino County’s Pacini Vineyard being seventy-five years. Blended with small amounts of Petite Sirah and Carignan from the same location and aged for twelve months on 30% new American oak, this wine is ripe and fruit-driven, with notes of raspberry, blueberry, and bing cherry doing the heavy lifting. Subtle hints of vanilla, leather, and spices create a pleasant undercurrent. Fine tannins linger on the finish, suggesting a bit of inherited longevity — though surely not fifty years. Best of all, this lively wine comes in at just $20, making it, again, a terrific QPR. I highly recommend it.

In all, it was a terrific day, altered by rain and enhanced by spontaneity, with a lovely dinner and a nice bottle of wine at the end. I would rarely have the audacity to ask for more than that. This afternoon, I have to leave town for the week, and with all the fun I’ve been having here with my family this summer I’ll admit that I’m not really looking forward to being gone. With luck, six days will pass like eight minutes in an art museum on a rainy afternoon, and I’ll be back home with my wife and children soon.

Cheers to the rain,

Mark

 

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