The Friday Fermentable: Wines of the Pacific Northwest by Erleichda

Our dear colleague, Erleichda, is back with another wine dinner experience. For those new to the blog, Erleichda is my slightly-senior colleague from whom I have learned a great deal about life and science. Recently retired from the discovery and development of life-saving anticancer drugs, he posts routinely on the escapades of his travels and wine dinners with his friends, known by the name “Jim’s Disciples” to acknowledge their recently departed founder. This is an older column that I missed posting awhile back so here it is for your enjoyment.
Another Wine Experience: Dinner Paired with Wines of the Pacific Northwest
by Erleichda

Jim’s Disciples tried a new approach to their monthly, or thereabouts, wine tasting dinners. Rather than the usual selection of a wine theme and attendance at a nearby restaurant, this particular Spring night we did something different. The restaurateur of a somewhat new BYOB establishment suggested wines of the Pacific Northwest (if that would be an acceptable focus to us) would make an interesting match for her husband’s cooking. For each course of her proposed menu she suggested a type of wine we could find from Oregon or Washington (or British Columbia). Each of us was then assigned one of the recommended varietals or theme topics as the basis for our wine purchase, with the intention that it would serve as the perfect accompaniment for the food course for which it had been chosen. Our selections made, we awaited the evening with great anticipation.
It was a dark and stormy night, but inside the restaurant the many glasses for the multitude of wines were twinkling and tinkling. Greetings all around, a congrats to the new grandpa amongst us, and all the bottles were opened and set aside as we settled in for an amuse bouche. A small dollop of smoked salmon canape on 7-grain toast went so nice with the Argyle 2002 Brut Cuvee Willamette Valley, Oregon sparkling wine (ca. $30), or was it the other way around? But I was hungry at this point and wished these temptations set before us were more plentiful. I found the wine, composed of 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir, to be a pleasant mixture of perfumed citrusy olfactory sensations, and toasty pear flavors on the tongue, along with good minerality. My tasting and smelling senses were still sharp at this point, but that would change. Others around the table mentioned tasting apple in this “fresh and dry” offering, and that the sparkling wine was “limestone mineraly” for a “not very dry brut”, as well as “light and citrusy”. Another nice beginning.
The meal began in earnest with the appearance of a pan seared crabcake with aioli sauce and a white bean relish. Two pinot gris wines had been selected to accompany this appetizer. The 2006 Lange Pinot Gris ($17) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley had a clean nose and tasted crisp to me with a very light viscosity. Two people said they tasted peach; I did not. I thought this wine went well on its own whereas the next wine did better when had with food. The second pinot gris, a 2006 Lachini, was from North Willamette Valley (available for $18, though I paid more). It was lighter and thinner than the first wine and tasted somewhat more acidic. Hence it did better with food, and this opinion was seconded by a few others, but not all participants. A few noted an after taste, or a strange odor, or a raisin taste.

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The Friday Fermentable: Mediterranean and Nearby Island Wines, by Erleichda

Recent Wine Experiences – Mediterranean (and nearby) Island Wines
by Erleichda

Sweetpea and I enjoy (gentle) hiking vacations, and we share this fondness with a small group of other likeminded hiker friends. I attempt to steer our selected destinations to places where grapes grow, and this has brought us, so far, to Sicily and the Greek islands. So when the theme for the latest gathering of Jim’s Disciples were wines of the Mediterranean and nearby islands, I was excited by the opportunity to explore some wines not heretofore tasted, and whose origins might provide the basis for future hiking destinations.
The group was also meeting at a new French BYOB restaurant, and we were not to be disappointed. While French food per se is not one of my favorites, it does provide a good palate for wine tasting. While we were all perusing the menu and catching up on Holiday Season news and gossip, I passed along two of the three white wines brought to the dinner and set to chill upon our arrival.

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The Friday Fermentable: A romp thru northern Italy: the Piemonte

Another Wine Experience- A romp thru northern Italy: the Piemonte
by Erleichda

Following a week of hiking around lakes Orta, Maggiore and Como, the eight of us piled into a rented van with all our luggage and headed for the Piedmont (or Piemonte) region, home of dolcetto, barbera, barbaresco and barolo wines. Lucky us (or was it good planning?), we arrived in Alba just in time for lunch and a few hours before the beginning of the annual wine festival. More than 100 wine producers, and a thousand different wines, awaited our tasting glasses (10 euros for a wine glass as an admission price, but you also got into the truffle display and bourse area, much to Sweetpea’s delight).
What can I tell you? It was almost as nice an experience as when my parents took me as a youngster to visit FAO Schwartz and see the Lionel train display. With our tummies filled with pizza and calzone so as to absorb the alcohol, we each set off to sample the sea of wine before us. It soon become apparent that I would have to focus on selected wine varieties, or a variety, if I was to draw any meaningful conclusions about what I was tasting while still able to write. And with my amici scattered, it was too late to mount an organized approach to the “chore” of tasting, and besides, they’d probably just pour wine over me if I assumed a work-like demeanor.

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The Friday Fermentable: A Mentor Gets A Well-Deserved Break

This morning our dear friend and colleague whose wine escapades often fill this spot awoke to the rewards of retirement. My senior cancer research colleague, Erleichda, has just closed the book on 30 years with a single pharmaceutical company, unheard of in today’s climate of layoffs and jumping from one company to the next.
My friend began in this industry when it was still considered a noble pursuit and continued to be an ambassador for all that is good about pharmaceutical research & development, with his primary concern the welfare of those stricken with cancer and the cultivation of junior scientists who sought to join in his mission. Although I only came to know him during the last decade of his distinguished career, the man shared with me many lessons of how to live life, how to carry oneself as a scientist, and how to stand up for principle in the face of the harsh economic realities of today’s pharmaceutical industry.
What particularly resonated with me about this gentleman was his understanding and respect for the scientific pioneers who came before us but who are still with us. Long after their own institutions had cast aside these senior scientists who no longer contributed directly to “the bottom line,” Erleichda treated these mentors of his own with the reverence and respect they deserved – and earned.
His excitement and passion for this scientific life is obvious any time we meet. The first time he met PharmGirl, a breast oncologist who had just witnessed one of his own drugs work wonders in a patient of her own, he grabbed her by the hand and took her across the convention center to meet the chemist who had first synthesized this very drug (from a natural product, of course). Bringing together the bench chemist and the clinician to share stories of their joint battle against cancer was just one example of the enthusiasm he has for sharing this journey and making everyone feel included and valued, no matter what role they play.
And, obviously, his joie de’vivre comes across in every column he writes for these Friday Fermentable pages.
So, today, he begins a new chapter with his life partner, the intrepid Sweetpea, another behind-the-scenes benefactor to this blog and blogger. I understand there are now other overseas trips in store involving winetasting and hiking – we wish them well and look forward to learning of their travels.
To my dear friend and colleague, thank you for setting such a stellar example for me to emulate – as both a gentleman and a scientist.

The Friday Fermentable: A Romp Through Northern Italy’s Lake Country

Another Wine Experience: A Romp thru Northern Italy’s Lake Country
By Erleichda
(about the author)
We touched down very early in Milan on what, for all eight of us, would mark the beginning of our hiking week in the Lake Country of northern Italy, a destination we had chosen after last year’s successful Lot Valley (France) hiking experience. Sweetpea had to crash as she is circadian rhythm-challenged (easily jet lagged) while the rest of us got our leg muscles warmed up by walking to the Duomo and then climbing up to its roof for a great view of the city. By the time we walked to La Scala and a few other destinations, our pedometer had logged 6 miles and we were ready for our first glass of vino. It was a Dolcetto d’Alba from Castello de Neive, their “Messoirano” ($12 in Italy, not available in US that I could find). I don’t remember the particulars about this one, so it was probably neither great nor unacceptable.
The wines we came upon during the 10 days spent in Italy that were considered worthy of note were often recorded by taking a picture of their bottle label and when and where tasted. Formal tasting notes were typically lacking, unless I saved the napkin, and the most I’ll be able to relate about a “wine of note” is that it was enjoyed by most gathered around the bottle.
In a few hours we were to meet a friend of mine, “Grazia,” who lives outside of Milan, and several of her family members, at a nearby restaurant known to be one of the Slow Food Movement’s first Milan members. While Grazia and I have known each other for many years through our playing bridge on the internet, I trusted her (and her daughter’s) judgment as to good restaurants with fine wine lists. We were not to be disappointed.

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The Friday Fermentable: Syrahs from Europe and the US, by Erleichda

Another Wine Experience – Syrahs from Europe and the US
By Erleichda

We’ve been having so many of our wine dinners the past two years that the group has had to return to its favorite haunts. Such was the case one Friday evening as we set about to taste Syrahs from the US and Europe. I have generally preferred my Syrahs blended, which is to say accompanied by other grape varieties such as one finds in the Rhone wines from the south of France. But tonight it was to be a tasting of just Syrah.

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The Friday Fermentable: North American Meritage by Erleichda

Another Wine Experience: North American Meritage
by Erleichda

The wine-dinner group met recently at a local unpretentious BYOB restaurant. We are surely fortunate to have so many of these restaurants in the vicinity for they curtail greatly our costs for dining out.
The theme for this evening’s wine tasting was the blend of Bordeaux grapes known hereabouts as “Meritage.” The term Meritage is a registered trademark, and red wines bearing this description must contain at least two of the grapes used in the mix found in the red wines from Bordeaux, i.e., cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec, and no single varietal may comprise more than 90% of the blend. A white Meritage bears the same relationship to white Bordeaux as its red counterpart; it is a blend of at least two of the grapes sauvignon blanc, sémillon, and sauvignon vert. [APB note: Meritage rhymes with heritage.]

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The Friday Fermentable: 2002 Red & White Burgundies, by Erleichda

[Back by popular demand is my Friday Fermentable co-blogger, Erleichda – to read all of the offerings from my silver-tongued and golden-palated friend, see this compilation. For new readers, here is The Friday Fermentable mission statement.]
Another Wine Experience : 2002 White & Red Burgundies
By Erleichda
It was Mort’s fault. As alluded to obliquely a few columns ago, it was he who introduced me to “fine wines.”. So many years ago, the story has improved with each telling, I was invited to participate in my first trout fishing adventure. After hours of practice casting, I was ready for the big day. My assignment, for the purpose of victuals, was to provide cucumber sandwiches, comprised of peeled and sliced cucumbers with mayonnaise (Hellman’s, not Miracle Whip) on a certain type of bread, with the crusts removed, and cut so as to provide triangles not rectangles. Mort would take care of the refreshments. I shall skip over the fishing portion of this story and cut to the lunch hour.
Mort unveiled not ice tea but a bottle of wine and proceeded to uncork it. “Oh”, I exclaimed, “a cork”! At which utterance Mort looked askew at me as to ponder what kind of person had he brought along. I tasted the first of two offerings Mort had brought with him to accompany our cucumber sandwiches and inquired as to what elixir this might be. The answer was to remain with me until this day, and almost formed the basis of my first daughter’s name, so impressed was I with what I had just drunk. It was a white French burgundy from Chassagne-Montrachet (vintage unknown, but this was 1978). While my appreciation for white burgundies has given way over the years to wonderful reds of assorted appellations, there remains a corner of my heart devoted to them. (Mort’s second wine that day was a Chateau Carbonnieux from Bordeaux, but that’s a wine of a different grape, for another column).

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The Friday Fermentable: Spanish wines from Ribera del Duero and Rioja, by Erleichda

Another Wine Experience – Spanish wines from Ribera del Duero and Rioja
By Erleichda

The gathering of Jim’s Disciples met at a nearby BYOB restaurant that we had used before for the monthly wine dinner. Most of the diners were outside on the patio enjoying a marvelous summer evening, while the ten of us gathered indoors (in what had been an 18th century stone barn) so as not to disturb the more genteel crowd. I would have preferred dining under the stars, but I understood the difficulty in attempting to accommodate us in the midst of romantic twosomes. Instead, we had to content ourselves with each other’s company and the 10 bottles of Spanish wines that would soon share our table.
Rioja_o.jpgThe theme that evening was Spanish wines from the Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions, and all 10 wines that were brought were red. It was to be an evening with only slight variations among the offerings, with many good wines but nothing earth shattering. (However do wine writers find the words to describe dozens of similar wines from the same grape and same region? No wonder the arcane vocabulary of the enophile is developing to accommodate nuances and sensations based on perceptions that are likely personal or shared but with a few.)
Since for most, if not all of us gathered, these wines were unfamiliar, there was no need for a blind tasting. So little did we know about what we were about to taste that no particular order was devised for drinking the wines. And so, before the first morsel of duck pate, steamed mussels, or crab bisque was set down, the Disciples decided to pass around the first two wines of the evening.

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About Erleichda, co-author of The Friday Fermentable

Erleichda is the nom de plume of a guest blogger who contributes regularly to The Friday Fermentable columns. The act of contributing a column periodically on the topic of wine is consistent with the philosophy embodied in his pseudonym, i.e., to “lighten up” (from ‘Jitterbug Perfume’ by Tom Robbins).
Erleichda holds a PhD in microbiology following a baccalaureate in the same discipline. Post-doctoral training was received in tumor immunology and virology. While initial employment involved transplantation immunology research for a few years, a subsequent job at a research institute focused his attention on experimental chemotherapy and tumor biology. For the past nearly 30 years, Erleichda has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a cancer drug developer. In that time, he has contributed substantially to the evaluation and development of scores of advanced compounds, culminating in the introduction of more than a dozen drug candidates to clinical trial, and continues to shepherd several of them toward satisfying unmet medical needs. With his colleagues, Erleichda has brought many of today’s well known anticancer drugs to our armamentarium against this family of diseases.
The search for new anticancer therapeutics, and interest in natural products especially, led to the meeting of Abel Pharmboy and Erleichda, who, whenever the opportunity permits, continue to work together in this vein.
When not engaged in cancer drug development, Erleichda can be found hiking in Europe, “wherever grapes grow” he says, playing bridge on-line (listening to his personalized “Billie Holiday” station on while glancing outside at the peafowl he keeps, playing a few games of racquetball, collecting medieval coins, and, of course, entertaining friends while sampling many wines.