Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wrongo Dongo

I generally have a base standard that prohibits me from buying a wine with a cute animal on the label or too crazy a name. I actually like wine and not marketing strategies.

After reading a couple of recommendations I found this 2007 Wrongo Dongo on sale for $7 a bottle. That's a price point that blurs that base standard a little. Since I've had good luck with Spanish wines, and this one is from Jumilla, I brought a bottle home. Last night it was opened with the last of the prime rib from Christmas Day +1.

The nose was fully ripe cherries and plums and some clean, dry dirt. All kinds of ripe cherries popped out on the taste with good acid and some grape tannin. The wine is 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre) and there wasn't even a hint of oak in the wine. The finish was pleasant and soft with just a little more fruit at the very end. 13% alcohol.

I won't even try to explain the label. Nice little wine despite the name.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Way to a Dog's Heart

Coming down from almost a week of great meals, last night was pretty simple. It was just a pan seared pork rib chop with a small amount of pan sauce served with mashed Yukon gold potatoes. As I was stirring the milk into the potatoes I reached in the refrigerator and pulled out the small bottle of white truffle oil that hides in the rear. I added a couple of drops to the potatoes and stirred it in.

In the process I created a small monster as Scott showed up in the kitchen with his nose working overtime. Normally he watches birds while I cook because Ellie was always the assistant chef. His rather large nosed was definitely focused on the potatoes and he went so far as to butt me with his head and look at the pan on the stove.

After putting a serving on my plate I gave him a small finger full. He followed me to the table and stood staring at me the entire time I was eating. He got another spoonful at the end of the meal and then I mixed a little more into his dog food. Since Ellie died he's a somewhat picky eater but last night he not only ate immediately he spent a couple of minutes licking the bowl clean before going back to the stove and begging for more. After I put the leftovers in the refrigerator I half expected him to stand there and guard it.

He loves leftover stuffing mixed in with his dog food, but I think he would have ignored that meal if there were some truffled potatoes sitting beside it. He got another spoonful in his food this morning and the results were the same. Perhaps he and I need a trip to Italy to search for our own truffles?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas +1

What a miserable day weather-wise here yesterday. The temperatures started going up and then the fog settled in for the entire day. There were thunderstorms mixed in with the fog and the wind kept changing directions. Visibility at times was close to ten or fifteen feet. I definitely could not see across the road.

Dinner for three was here and we started with some fresh scallops, chopped and mixed with a little shallot before being sauteed and sprinkled with dill. When that mixture cooled it was mixed with some mayonnaise and grated Gruyere cheese. That mixture was spooned on to small toast rounds and the entire thing was popped under the broiler until the scallops warmed and the cheese and mayo bound things together.

There was a Burgans 2007 Albarino to wash down the appetizer. Sharp and crisp and almost smelling of the sea it was great with the food.

Dinner was a dry aged, standing rib roast of beef, slow cooked to medium rare. With the beef there was a small salad and a side dish of red wine risotto. The wine was a 1995 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo. Since it was thirteen years out from the vintage we opted not to decant the wine, but poured straight from the bottle.

The nose was about about fresh and dried cherries and warm earth and herbs. We discussed this nose for a few minutes and finally decided that we were actually getting a hint of fresh sage. The taste was all about those tart cherries and the sage with just a tiny hint of oak and chocolate on the finish. Great acidity in the wine made for a great match with the fattiness of the beef. The finish was lengthy and left you wanting another sip or two. Excellent wine and a great match with the beef and risotto.

There was a small glass left for two of us after dinner and the wine continued to evolve in the glass and by the last sip we decided there were some cranberries mixed in with the cherries. The only down side to the wine is that it was the last bottle in the cellar.

This morning the fog has lifted and we are headed to 70 degrees, a rare treat at this time of year. The windows are all open and there is fresh air blowing through the house. Scott managed to get some of the edges and fat from the prime rib mixed in with his dog food this morning so he is happy also. Life is good.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Three Party System

Christmas was great. We began the day with breakfast at my sister's house not far from here and an exchange of small gifts.

Since the sun was shining and the ground frozen Scott and I made a trip to the wildlife area where he got about and hour's worth of running off lead out of his system, and in the process managed to flush a small covey of about six quail. Toward the end of the run he did what he was supposed to do and came to a beautiful and stylish point, frozen in place, eyes straight ahead and nose working overtime sniffing the air. When I caught up with him he began ever so slowly to raise one foot and move it forward. I stopped him from moving and looked ahead and saw a hen pheasant in a cluster of weeds by a fence row of a corn field. I kicked the cluster of weeds and grasses and she flew away with a Gordon setter in hot pursuit. Not the best of manners on Scott's part, but he was having a wonderful time and it was Christmas.

We got back home in time to pick up a phone call inviting us to friends' house for a drink and a sack. The drink was an early afternoon dram of Laphroaig.

The evening found us at my step mother's sister's house for the last party of the day. There was a large crowd of kids and grand kids, fortunately none younger than 16, and a lot of food.

I took two bottles of wine, pictured above, the Kinkead Ridge Revelations. The white is from the 2007 vintage and there were only 40+ cases of this wine made, and the red was from the 2006 vintage of around 400 cases. No one else at the party was familiar with the wines and there were only four or five wine drinkers there, but both quickly disappeared before the bottles brought by other folks. The white was primarily a Viogner and Rousanne blend white the red was Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Both have been discussed here separately in previous posts, and both are excellent wines.

Today is another holiday from work and there will be a small party here with a standing rib roast of beef and some good wines. Before all the preparation begins, Scott and I will take another shot at that pheasant and the quail. This time the camera goes along.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve morning and a poinsettia for the day.

Yesterday's ice storm melted overnight as temperatures are on their way to the mid 50 degree range with lots of rain expected before plunging to the low 20's tonight. Lot's of rapid storm fronts moving through from various directions are making life interesting here.
There will be sparkling wine and appetizers tonight
for dinner and celebrations with friends and family tomorrow.

At the left is a last reminder of Ellie from this year's holiday card. The picture was taken and the card in the works before her untimely death in November.

To each of you who read this blog, and some have become regulars, I wish you the merriest of holidays and lots of good wine and food in the year to come, and as the tag line on the holiday card said, "Tidings of comfort and joy.".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Golden Beets

I roasted some golden beets and sliced them. No wine - I just like this picture. And after the photo was snapped we ate the beets. Very good.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Out of Season Treat

It was very cold yesterday, and is even colder this morning as we are down to 1 degree. At least yesterday was sunny, and that was the first time the sun made an appearance in the last five days.

There was a surprise in the market that I don't usually see until much later in the year - fresh fava beans. Thanks to new labeling laws the country of origin has to be on the package or displayed above a bulk item. In this case the fava beans were from Mexico. They are a lot of work since you must first remove them from the pod and then remove the tough outer layer on each individual bean. These were young beans so that second layer was not difficult to remove, just time consuming. We sat in the front window in the sunshine with a couple of bowls and did the chore there.

The beans were quickly steamed then sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic.

While all this was going on there were lamb shanks braising in the oven with lots of garlic and herbs. Even Scott, the dog, had an active nose as the house smelled wonderful. Just after sunset we added leeks, white beans, fresh tomatoes, celery and carrots to the pot just until they were cooked crisp tender. At the end we scattered some gremolatta over the top and scattered the fava beans around the plate.

Variations on this dish remain one of my wintertime favorites. As an added bonus there is always leftovers with this dish and they are perhaps even better the second day after the flavors mellow into each other.

Two wines. We finished the Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon discussed below. The medium weight of the wine was a wonderful match with the lamb, perhaps a better match than the duck from the previous night. The other wine was a 2003 Alcione Aglianico Puglia from Italy. This was a definitely different wine as it was much heavier in the fruit and in it's intensity. Definitely could tell it was from a warmer climate as it was much more jammy. It was good, but it did not go as well with the lamb shanks as the Martini Cabernet.

With Christmas coming up on Thursday it will be a short work week, but since it will be extremely busy I'm, happy to have the leftovers to shorten dinner prep when coming home.

I think Scott might have been happiest as he got some of the fat skimmed from the cooking liquid poured over his dog food this morning. He's been back to his dish a couple of times to sniff and see if he missed a drop or two.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Night Dinner

A trip to the market this morning found fresh duck breast in the poultry case. It had been awhile since we had duck so that was resolved this evening.

I scored the skin on the boneless breasts then sauteed them over medium heat for about twelve minutes, long enough to render out most of the fat. They were turned over and cooked about three minutes on the second side. While they were resting I removed the duck fat from the skillet, and tossed in some chopped shallots and some grated fresh ginger. I added a teaspoon of an ancho chili paste, a teaspoon of honey and a quarter cup of port. Once that reduced it was brushed over the duck breasts and they were popped under the broiler to re crisp the skin.

We added some mashed Yukon gold potatoes, threw some chopped scallions over everything and popped the cork on a 2002 Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There was cassis and tobacco in the nose, but the taste was dark cherries and other red fruits. Good acid and some smooth tannin added a little complexity, but this was still a more old world wine than a new world one. It was very balanced and had a good finish, ending with just the last little burst of tannin. It was a nice match with the duck.

There was a mango sorbet for dessert, and after dessert there was an assault on a 2001 late bottled vintage port from Taylor Fladgate. This was the port that was in the sauce for the duck. Fruity, dark and just basically nice with out being spectacular, for $20 it was a decent buy. There was some Stilton cheese and a few pecans to finish the evening. Temperatures have been falling all day and will continue to do so with a low tomorrow night expected between 0 and 5 degrees. Good port weather.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Flamingo, Santa Claus & Good Wine

"Things" are arriving in the mail for Christmas and pictured above is an ornament for the tree from friends in Illinois. Since it has been awhile since there was a flamingo on site this seemed like a good time to put up a photo. They also sent Scott an ornament of a tree rodent (squirrel).

Yesterday was unseasonably warm and it warmed up even more over night to nearly 60 degrees. That is all changing as temps are due to fall into the 30 degree range by evening.

Since it was good weather the grill was in use yesterday for a small ribeye steak from a bison. Bison meat is available in the local market again so it was the meat of choice for the day. Grilled to the rare side of medium rare over a hot fire and finished with crumbled Maytag blue cheese it was tender and delicious.

The wine was a 2007 Petraio, a Nero D'Avola wine from Sicily. Bright ruby purple in the glass it smelled of red plums just before they turn purple. Lots of those red plums in the taste along with some tart cherries. There was decent acid for a hot weather wine and nice gripping tannin. The finish left a little to be desired, but overall it was a pleasant wine that reminded me, as I learned that is should, of a young syrah. For $8.50 it was a good wine.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Abstract Art?

In a sense, yes it is, but then again it isn't.

While I can possibly see an owl peering out of red bush or a raccoon eyeing it's next meal, it's really a pot of Osso Buco just out of the oven and waiting to be served. There are shallots, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, thyme, sage, bay leaves, tomatoes and half a lemon all braised together with two, browned, meaty veal shanks. White wine and chicken stock were used as the braising medium.

Yes, it was a cold day and the entire concoction made the house smell like a little bit of Italy and warmed the kitchen. There was a small salad on the side and a couple of slices of toasted Italian bread to make a meal to dawdle over and enjoy.

The wine for the evening was a 2007 Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage blanc. 100% Marsanne the wine had an aroma of not quite ripe peaches and just a touch of citrus and a little nutmeg. The wine was cold stabilized so it had not undergone malolactic fermentation, and it retained the acid that came from the grapes.

The peaches were there in force in the taste and there was a slightly heavy viscosity that coated the mouth as it finished. Even though it retained its acid it was still lower than most wines, but since there was half a lemon, peels and seeds included, in the sauce it made for a reverse match. The acidity in the sauce cleaned the palate after a sip of wine. The wine wouldn't have worked with a rich sauce as both would have tasted fat, but with a sharp sauce it was very good.

Normally we would have fixed some polenta to serve with the Osso Buco, but instead there was lemon pepper pappardelle under the serving. A good meal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Special Treat and Free Shipping

Early in November the local market held their holiday food and wine show. They have an upstairs exhibition and dining area and each November they throw caution to the wind. Both the food and the wines are first class and one price gets one access to everything.

This year there was a large table for Italian wines and to my mind the 2004 Gianfranco Alessandria San Giovanni Barolo was the star of the table, even outshining a couple of "super Tuscans." It is a fruit forward wine with good depth. Dark cherries and strawberries in the nose, with fruit and tannin in the taste and good acid. It was just a remarkable wine and one of the best young wines I've tasted in some time. Sadly, the local price for this vintage is $90 a bottle.

With the economy being what it is I went back for a second tasting of this wine thinking that this would be my only time to taste it. They poured an extra amount in my glass and smiled. I passed the wine in the wine section of the market several times after that but still couldn't justify the price.

As usual, things sometimes have a way of changing, and an unexpected addition to my father's estate popped up in the mail box. It wasn't a huge amount, but it was enough for a special treat and to add to the "rainy day fund." What makes the story even better is that before I could get to the market to purchase a bottle an e-mail arrived from one of the top wine stores in New York. They were having a "Barolo Blowout Sale" with some remarkable prices on 2003 and 2004 Barolos and they were throwing in free shipping.

I scanned the list and there was my wine. The New York price wasn't $90, it was $52. I was totally amazed, and with credit card number at my fingertips I ordered three bottles. They arrived safely earlier this week and are now resting comfortably and aging a little.

I normally don't have wine shipped in as it is difficult here in Ohio to do so, as the state government (and the wine wholesalers) are in a conspiracy to make life dull and gray and to make criminals out of normally law abiding citizens. As long as I can take a bottle of this Barolo along with me to prison it will be worth the effort.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holidays Begin

The Christmas holidays began in earnest last night with a dinner at a relative's house about ten miles from here. It was a group effort on both cooking and wine.

The evening had more or less an Italian or Mediterranean flair to it so it began with a Ca' Tullio Prosecco and appetizers. Light and almost colorless the wine fell somewhere between frizzante and spumante, or between slightly fizzy to bubbly. There was good acid, a small does of residual sugar and only 11% alcohol. Good wine, but Proseccos aren't really my favorites. It was paired with some spanikopita , phyllo dough triangles filled with spinach and cheese and some asparagus and arugula rolled sushi style in overlapping slices of prosciutto.

The main course was my doing and it was half a turkey breast, butterflied and stuffed, then rolled and tied to make a roast. The stuffing was made from sourdough bread, onions, celery, thyme, sage, eggs and white wine. Ther were three other ingredients, a cup and a half of toasted pecans, a half cup of sun dried tomatoes and a generous cup and a half of parmiggiano regiano. What didn't go into the turkey breast was baked alongside. The aroma of the herbs, the turkey and the pecans and tomatoes roasting together was nearly a meal unto itself.

There were two wines with dinner. The first was a 2001 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva and the second was a 1995 Beringer Napa Valley reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The chianti was the star between the two wines. Sharp and tart cherry flavors in both the nose and taste, there was body and acidity to carry through the richness in the stuffing. The tannins were mild but the finish was long and sweet. the wine lasted throughout the meal and never faded. The Beringer was a nice wine at the start with dark fruit, cherries and currants foremost in the nose. The wine was dark and full bodied with good fruit on the taste and good, gripping tannin. It did seem a little low in acid but it went well with the main course for the first few bites. The fruit then began to fade and the tannins became more pronounced. By then end of the meal the wine was a little harsh.

Dessert was a cranberry mousse and dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans. The mousse was a bright, holiday pink and the tartness in the cranberries kept it from being too sweet.

There were both turkey and stuffing left over so everyone took home a small amount, and some of the extra stuffing will wind up topping Scott's dog food over the next day or so. That will make him a happy dog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Portuguese Red

It seems lately that there has been a lot of talk on the internet wine sites and some publications about Portuguese red, table wines. I ran across one on an out of state excursion last weekend and last night seemed like a good night to try the wine.

It was a cold, snowy day, though there was but an inch or so of accumulation. At dinner time it wasn't snowing so I lit the grill. There was a small strip steak that went over the coals and a couple of slices of sourdough bread that toasted alongside the steak as it grilled. Add in some garlic and rosemary, oven roasted potatoes and it was a good meal for a winter evening.

The wine was a 2005 Altano from the Duoro, the same region as port. Made by the Symington Family Estates the wine is 70% Tinta Roriz and 30% Tinta Franca. I opened the bottle and decanted half of it as the steak and potatoes cooked, about half an hour. The nose was huge on the wine with tons of dark, ripe fruit pouring out of the glass with some herbs and flowers following it. It was a well colored wine. That fruit was foremost on the taste as well, dark cherries and almost a hint of chocolate. Surprisingly the wine was medium bodied and a little short on the finish. There was good acidity, but it was a touch soft in tannin. Setting my mind in the "WABAC machine" mode I decided the wine reminded me of a Zinfandel from the 1980's before the California fixation with extraction and high alcohol ruined the wine. In short, a wonderful wine to drink with dinner without having to put a lot of thought into it. At 13% alcohol and an $11 price tag it has a lot going for it.

There were a couple of tough ends to the steak and Scott helped with those (his sister would have approved). Later in the evening he went out to discover cat tracks in the snow in "his territory." He followed them to a fence line, marked the spot and came back in for a nap on the bed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition in the U.S., proving that on rare occasions our government does something good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recession Riesling

Now that it is officially a "recession" I'll be doing my part by economizing on wines. To that end I stumbled across another inexpensive German Riesling. The local, 'somewhat upscale' market had a policy that they didn't really deal with wines less than $10. That policy has now changed as there is a busy corner of the wine department with an under $10 section.

We discussed one of these wines below with the Wilhelm Bergmann Kabinett. The 2006 Leonard Kreusch Johannisberg Riesling at $9 is another.

The nose is loaded with green apples, not totally ripe pears and citrus. There is a hint of some minerals as well. The taste is mostly lime and pears. It's off dry at 10.5% alcohol but was excellent with a small piece of halibut dusted with chipotle chili powder and pan roasted. The heat from the chili powder played nicely with the subtle sweetness in the wine and the sweetness in the fish matched with the acidity in the wine. This is simply a Rheingau wine from the area around the Johannisberg Bereich. There's no need to wait on it or hold it, there's only a need to open it (screw cap) and enjoy it.

This makes four Rieslings in the last two weeks tasted here that have been under $15 and ranged from very, very good to merely quite good. Just because there's a recession there's no need not to enjoy oneself and there's a lot of enjoyment in these wines.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy St. Andrew's Day

A cold, rainy, gray day here in Ohio for St. Andrew's Day. That meant braising something. To make it meaningful for the day we bought a small chuck roast of Highland beef. Rubbed with salt and pepper and thyme it braised away the day in chicken stock, white wine, onions, carrots, celery and a small dash of single malt Scottish whisky - in this case Caol Islay. That lent it an undertone smoky goodness.

There was some freshly made pappardele, a small salad and a wine to complete the meal.

The Gianfranco Alessandria Dolcetto d'Alba for 2007 just hit the market at $14 a bottle. It was bright and refreshing smelling of tart cherries and bright red plums. Good acidity and only a slight kick from tannin made it great with the richness in the beef. It is a lighter version of Dolcetto than the Sandrone discussed below. For the price it's a good wine.

Scott was bored all day as he has only been out for the necessary functions of a dog, but at least the squirrels and birds sequestered themselves for the day as well. Had they made an appearance he would have known it since he spent most of the day at the windows watching for them.

The evening will end with a "not so wee" dram of Lagavulin Distillers Edition. Who cares if it rains?

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Cut Above

It was another beautiful day and Scott and I got in a walk along the river, much to the chagrin of a large number of Canada geese.

Since it was sunny we lit the grill for dinner. There were two large lamb chops and they were rubbed with a mixture of rosemary, thyme, sea salt, Dijon mustard and olive oil and allowed to marinate for about an hour. While the chops marinated there was a risotto to fix. This version was finished with roasted buttercup squash, cheese, nutmeg and a quarter teaspoon of white truffle oil. It smelled like heaven should smell.

The wine was a 2005 Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d'Alba. This was not "your father's Dolcetto." It opened to a blast of freshly turned earth, spices and dark fruit. There was a suggestion of vanilla in the nose as well. The color was extremely dark. The taste was about the darkest, ripest cherries mixed in with a few dark plums. Full bodied with surprising, tannin it just filled the mouth with flavor. There was good acid and a good grip of soft tannin that led to a long finish ending with fruit and earth. It was wonderful with the lamb but the risotto / Dolcetto match was magnificent. The squash was earthy and it matched the earthiness and fruit in the wine, and the white truffle oil provided a richness that the acid in the Dolcetto played tag with. As the evening went along and the wine had more time to breathe it mellowed and picked up a hint of flowers as well as the fruit and earth. There is enough in this wine that it should have a 3 to 5 year window for drinking.

Quite simply it was the best Dolcetto I've ever had the pleasure to drink - and there are two more in the cellar, and it is still available in the market here at $24 a bottle. We will be adding another bottle or two.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

We survived Thanksgiving this year, and it really wasn't too bad, but after an afternoon and early evening of eating and drinking a nap is in order.

The day started early as Scott and I managed an hour and a half at a wildlife area. It's one of the few places where he can be off lead and run to his heart's content and he did just that. It tired both of us, but it was a good type of tired.

Early afternoon was a Thanksgiving lunch with the wine drinking friends. The food was good and the wine was wonderful. We drank a 2001 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino. Deep red and fully extracted in color it smelled of earth and cherries. The taste was dark, ripe cherries with good acid and tannins on the edges. The wine was full bodied but the Sangiovese acidity was there to cleanse the palate between small bites of turkey. The finish was wonderfully long and refreshing ending with a small burst of fruit and some herbs. A very nice wine.

In late afternoon we ventured to my niece's house for a family Thanksgiving. She was replacing my sister as host this year after way too many year's of suffering through bizarre turkey experiments with my sister. Those experiments remain the stuff of legends.

The food was good but there was no wine, only a non alcoholic beer. There were also plenty of left overs and Scott totally enjoyed his dinner as it included turkey and home made stuffing. He's napping now and after a glass of port I will be joining him.

The picture above is not Scott. It his mother Stevie and was taken when she lived with us. Stevie was a great one for naps on the bed and was a very sweet girl. She now lives in northern Ohio and manages a house full of three English Springer Spaniels.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Experiment

A cold but beautiful day yesterday so Scott and I managed a long walk by the river in the morning and we spent the late afternoon at a local park making sure the squirrels were in the trees where they belong.

During a market trip on Saturday morning there was a new item on the shelf. It's the first time I had seen bamboo rice. It is a wonderful pale green, short grain rice from China. Reading the labels on the package it turns out to be a white short grain rice that is soaked in bamboo juice to produce the unique green color. There was a recipe on the package that intrigued me so we tossed a couple of other ingredients into the cart.

The more I looked at the recipe the more it needed to be tinkered with so I added an item or two. Basically I sauteed shallots, garlic and minced ginger in olive oil, added a diced, sweet, red pepper and one finely diced Serrano pepper for effect and heat. Once the peppers softened I added the rice and vegetable stock. I brought everything to a boil and added the shrimp, then covered it and let everything simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. I removed it from the heat and added a chopped fresh mango, recovered the pan and let it sit for five minutes. The results are pictured above.

The dish was quite tasty but it had a problem or two that I will solved the next time. I prefer my shrimp less well cooked so I will not add them the next time until much later in the cooking - basically just letting them steam over the top of the rice mixture for the last several minutes. The dish also needed a slightly less ripe mango as it seemed to dissolve into the rice. I loved the taste of the green rice and mango together and the mango went great with the shrimp, but I would have just preferred that it be a little more crisp. I liked the slight kick from the Serrano and the taste of the ginger in the dish.

I opened two wines and while both were good, one was better with the shrimp. The first was a 2005 Chrismont, King Valley, Victoria dry Riesling from Australia. It is one of the few available in this area and I was anxious to try it. Dry, crisp and minerally with lots of limes in the nose and taste. There were some lemons and totally fresh peaches in the taste as well. Easy wine to drink and I liked it with the shrimp. It's $17 in this area.

The second wine was a 2007 Wilhelm Bergmann Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel. There was a hint of kerosene in the nose with limestone and limes and spring flowers. Very ripe fruit in the taste with citrus overlaying a sweet, young grape taste. There was some residual sugar and that just married beautifully with the Serrano pepper and the ginger in the shrimp dish. This was as close to a perfect pairing as I've had for awhile. The amazing thing is that this wine is only $8 in the local market. That's an outstanding bargain.

I ordered a half case of the Leitz Trocken Riesling discussed below and I will add six of the Bergmann to make up the case, and that of course gets a discount and lowers the price on this wine to $7.10.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rare Treats

Friends called early yesterday and offered a dinner invitation. They were trying a new recipe and wanted some other opinions. We accepted and it was a great meal.

I found a couple of bargain wines while out shopping in the morning and decided to try them. First was a 2007 Three Blind Moose Columbia Valley dry Riesling that was on sale for $5.99. We opened it as an aperitif. Clean and crisp with some peaches and petrol showing in the nose. Those flavors carried over along with a hint of lime. There was just a hint of residual sweetness. For the price it was a very good wine. With the economy being what it is I'll be adding more of this wine while the sale lasts. Just a very easy wine to drink without requiring much thought. The other wine I bought on sale was a Dow Fine Tawny Port for $12. We deferred that until after dinner.

Dinner was indeed a treat. It was a whole tenderloin butterflied stuffed with an onion and mushroom mixture that had been sauteed in butter and thyme and Madeira. The meat was then rolled and tied, sauteed in a skillet and popped into a very hot oven. When it came out of the oven it was spread with a sauce of garlic, butter, thyme and Dijon mustard and allowed to rest.

While the beef was in the oven we opened a 1995 Chateau Lafon Rochet. Clean leather and dirt in the nose, the wine was medium bodied and had thrown some sediment onto the side of the bottle. After some swirling some cherries and tobacco popped out and the wine began to open up. Good acidity and smooth tannins and ever increasing fruit made for a nice wine. Just as the beef came out of the oven the wine was finishing with a hint of chocolate covered cherries. There was a decent finish length and for a St. Estephe it was a very good effort. Nice wine and we saved some for the meal.

A second bottle of Bordeaux magically appeared on the table so we opened it as well. This was a 1998 Chateau Pichon Longueville, Baron de Longueville, a second growth Paulliac. The nose hit you with currants and cassis and dark cherries with hints of tobacco, dirt and cedar. Very full bodied and almost viscous in the mouth it was full of dark cherries and currants. Great acidity, big but smooth tannins and a solid core of fruit carried all the way through to the finish. The finish was lengthy and delightful. An excellent wine and a wonderful match with the mushrooms rolled up in the beef. This was several steps up from the Lafon Rochet and a wonderful treat.

The Dow port was light and easy to drink, though in the glass it looked more like a ruby port than a tawny. It was still a good wine for the price and with cold weather here will be enjoyed over a period of a week or more. There was some just cut Stilton to go with the Dow. One final wine then made an appearance. This was a Taylor Fladgate 30 year old tawny port. This was correctly colored like a dark raisin and just filled the room with its aromas of grapes and chocolate and caramel. Those flavors, along with some vanilla were predominant in the taste along with some English toffee. Throw in a wonderful, lengthy finish and it made for the perfect ending to a great evening.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Passing

There is much sadness here in the house as one of the namesakes of this site, Miss Ellie died late Monday morning. The death was very unexpected, and the only fortunate part is that the illness, while fatal, was very, very brief.

She was the primary kitchen assistant, the sous-chef. If someone was in the kitchen cooking, Ellie was there as well to supervise, taste, and offer encouragement. She was conniving, manipulative, and as happy as a soul could be. Her five and a half years were mostly filled with joy. She died knowing that she was loved and cared for, and sometimes I think that is all any of us should ask for.

The name of the site will remain the same even though she's gone, but in commenting on finished meals you might at times see the comment, "Ellie would have approved." It's not really much of a compliment because she loved just about anything food related, but it will always be a happy compliment on a good meal.

Sleep easy, little girl.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Snow

Snow showers yesterday as things continue to decline on the weather front. I'm just not ready for snow in any form. It's spitting snow again this morning as this is being typed, but there's been no accumulation.

After a big meal on Saturday I shouldn't have been too hungry, but that wasn't the case. It was time to turn on the oven and roast something inside. It turned out to be a small rack of pork. It was rubbed with a mixture of crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic powder, thyme and sage, I seared in in a skillet on top of the stove then popped it into the oven to finish.

The markets are still full of winter squash so this day was a buttercup squash, as opposed to Saturday's Delicato squash. I halved the buttercup, scooped out the seeds and roasted it.

With a German style pork roast it was time for a German wine, and it was a new one for me. I have enjoyed a number of wines from Leitz, but the 2007 Eins Zwei Dry #3 was not one I had run across before. This is a trocken Riesling from the Rheingau and checked in a 12% alcohol. The nose was full of lime and minerals. It reminded me of a young chablis. Definitely crisp and young, the limes came through on the taste along with some tart peaches and perhaps a hint of seawater. There was a very good body and weight to the wine. The minerality was up front in the finish and then just when you thought the wine was done there was brief splash of sweetness at the very end - a tart, but sweet green grape. That was a nice finish.

The pork was delicious and the wine was great with it. I ate about 1/3 of the squash and saved the rest for a buttercup risotto later this week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Little Brother

No, this isn't a repeat post - the year has changed.

After some success with the 1983 Hermitage La Chapelle last weekend (see post below) I decided it was time to to try a younger version of the same wine. There were multiple bottles of the 1998 in the cellar so that was the basis of the decision. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were a total washout as an intestinal flu meant three consecutive days of chicken soup and mostly water and weak tea. Add in that the cold and wet weather is not helping my recently repaired knee and it was time for another good wine.

Since my appetite returned in a big way dinner was a grass fed porterhouse steak with a small salad and a baked Delicato squash. The steak was rubbed with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and lightly dusted with pepper. Despite it being a cold, drizzly and dreary day I lit the grill and cooked the steak outside.

The wine? Once again a heavy sediment clung to the side of the bottle. With this wine being fifteen years the junior to the last one I decanted about 2/3 of the bottle. Much darker color and a much different nose greeted me. The unmistakable smell of raw meat greeted me, with dark cherries and the darkest of plums sneaking out of the decanter as well. There was a wet earth aroma as well. The wine was medium in color as a lot of it was clinging to the inside of the bottle. On the taste it was a little closed but the plum fruit and earth were strong. There was just a hint of age showing in both the edge in the glass and in the taste. There were firm tannins and medium acidity.

Forty minutes later when the steak was on the plate the wine began blooming. The cherries and plums were stronger and as with the older bottle the food took away some of the aged taste of the wine. The raw meat smell was still there, and that is a smell I love. The wine seemed more full bodied and even the finish seemed more lengthy. Food definitely helped the older wine and it definitely helped this younger version.

A very good, but not great, cool climate Syrah. It definitely won't last as long as it's older brother so the two remaining bottles will move to the "drink up" portion of the cellar.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Veteran's Day

The official U.S. celebration of Veterans' Day is not until Tuesday, November 11, but this post moves the apostrophe one character to the left. That makes it a singular veteran.

The veteran in this case was opened and consumed yesterday. It was a 1983 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Aine. It was the oldest wine in the cellar at 25 years of age and it's time had come. We sampled a couple of 2005 Bordeaux while cooking. Best of the two was the Ch. Paviel de Luze from Margaux. Bright and fruity fresh with good color and acid, it was still closed up. Lots of swirling finally got enough of a nose of fruit and flowers to make it an enjoyable wine.

The cork stayed in the Hermitage while we cooked. Dinner was a small rack of Icelandic lamb which is back in the local market. With all the economic problems Iceland is having it was nice to help out their economy, or at least to use that as an excuse. The Icelandic lamb is very young, totally grass and pasture fed throughout the summer and sent to market in the fall. I buzzed some fresh garlic with rosemary, lemon thyme, white peppercorns, and red sea salt until it formed a heavy paste. The paste was thinned with Dijon mustard and then spread over the rack about an hour before cooking.

It was pan seared and popped into a very hot oven for ten minutes. There were rosemary roasted potatoes to go with the lamb and some steamed green beans on the side.

When the lamb went in the oven the cork came out of the Hermitage. There was heavy sediment in the bottle so we used a funnel strainer for pouring, but with a wine of senior age we did not decant. The wine was a remarkable color - not brooding and dark like a typical young syrah, but brick red and more Burgundy like in its depth of color. After a swirl it was obvious that the wine not young as there was nose of dry forest floor mixed in with some dried fruit flavors, mostly plums running to prunes. The taste was about the same as I had to struggle to identify the sensations. Dry pine forest floor, tart red plums, cinnamon, and perhaps some berry fruit mixed with some dry herbs to give the wine a not unpleasant taste, but not a taste that I am used to. Of the two other folks helping with the meal, one thought it was great and one thought it was old and tired.

We poured another glass and sat down with the lamb and potatoes. The lamb was tremendous as it had the natural gaminess of grass fed animals without overpowering the senses. Tender and delicious. I took a sip of the wine after a bite of lamb and the red plums jumped out of the glass and they brought some dark cherries with them. The wine tasted ten years younger. The fruit was in full flavor, there was still good acid and enough tannin to gently clear the palate. The finish was extremely long. The others agreed that the lamb made the wine better.

Bottom line, it was a fantastic experience and a delicious meal. This was not the best wine I've ever drunk, and it isn't in the running for the best of the year. But given its age and how it had changed and evolved from what I expect a Rhone syrah to be it gets a good grade and a standing ovation. Truth be told, it should have been opened about five years ago and I think it would have been magnificent at that point in time.

The oldest wines now in the cellar are some 1986 Bordeaux, chief among them a couple bottles of Ch, Leoville Las Cases. One of those is shaping up to be the New Year's Eve bottle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Night and Day

The U. S. election is over and it is now safe to turn on the television and not be subjected to countless attack ads from national and local candidates. Living in Ohio, one of the key toss up states, it is also nice to hear the telephone ring and not have the expectation that it is a programmed call from a politician, one of his/her supporters, local political parties, people promoting or denouncing issues or a celebrity telling me to make sure to vote (and while you're voting make certain to vote for the right candidate). During the last week I disabled the answering machine and made full use of caller ID before picking up the phone.

All that said, I was not disinterested in the election at all. I thought it was critical to our future as I don't care for the direction the country has taken in the last eight years.

Around 10:00 PM the major television networks announced that Senator Obama was the winner in the state of Ohio, a major surprise at that time of day. In the last two elections it has taken all night and part of the next day to determine the winner in Ohio. That was reason enough to celebrate, but couple it with the fact that the correct candidate won meant it was time for champagne.

In this case it was a 2002 Lancelot-Pienne Cuvee de la Table Ronde blanc de blanc. There were lively bubbles when it hit the glass and there were aromas of yeast, toast, very fresh and tart apples and hints of lime. All those aromas were in the taste, though the toast came through more as fresh, crusty bread just out of the oven. It bubbled away in the glass for as long as it was allowed to stay in the glass. It was a wonderful way to end what turned out to be a very good evening. And yes, there was a deliberate choice in the Cuvee de la Table Ronde. An Obama administration will not be Camelot, but after the last eight years I feel as though the curse of Mordred and Morgan la Fay has been lifted.

It was another beautiful day in Ohio with warm temperatures and beautiful blue sky and a light breeze. The knee is keeping me home all week, but it didn't stop a trip to the market. Dinner was from the grill again. In this case it was veal rib chop. It received my standard and favorite marinade - lemon juice, olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, red pepper flakes and a pinch of white pepper. That is what is marinating in the photo.

There were some diced potatoes tossed with duck fat and pepper and roasted in a hot oven for forty-five minutes and a salad of romaine, red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, blanched, white asparagus and crumbles of soft, fresh goat cheese. All of this was dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and orange marmalade dressing.

The wine was a 2002 Beaulieu Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon from the heart of Napa Valley. I decanted the wine for half an hour. The wine was dark and the nose was just a little closed, but there were currants and dark fruit hiding in there. There was a touch of cedar in the nose as well. The wine was very closed on the first sip so I left the decanter alone until dinner was ready.

The currants and fruit came nicely forward and there was a hint of cranberry in the nose as well. The taste was full of the currants and cranberries and some very dark cherries as well. The weight was on the heavy side of medium, though not so full and powerful as to overwhelm the meal. Good acid and the unique tannins one gets with wines from Rutherford. Throw in a moderately long finish and for $22 you have a very, very good wine. The last of the second glass played very nicely with a square of dark chocolate with pomegranate bits.

I have one other bottle and I will squirrel it away for several more years as I don't think this wine was at its peak.

It was a very good day, and today will be good as well as there is some of each wine left. Champagne for lunch anyone?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Two Wines on Day Two and Fresh Crab

Indian Summer is in full force here in Ohio, and it's nice to know something other than the election is in force. Temperatures were in the low 70 degree range today and there were only a few scattered clouds.

The trip to the market was a perfect example of a dilemma. The seafood case was full of fresh Alaskan King Crab and my friend the fishmonger was busy extolling not only its taste but its price drop from last year. King Crab season in Alaska runs from the last of October to the middle of November each year and the crab that gets served outside of that time frame is always frozen during that three to four week period. The crab in the case was not frozen. It was flash cooked and air shipped to Ohio. The fishmonger pulled a small sample out and handed it to me. Sweet, clean, no bad aroma, great texture and tremendous taste. It definitely is superior to frozen king crab.

The price? Last year because of strong economies in Japan and China the going rate was $30 a pound. With those countries buying less the going rate this year is only $25 a pound, not a bargain by any stretch of the imagination. After being offered the second taste I decided that a rough week at work deserved a treat at the end (perfect rationalization). I bought a three leg chunk for $35 and the fishmonger threw in a fourth leg after weighing my selection. The small leg is shown above with a wine cork for size reference.

I reheated the small leg for an appetizer this afternoon and opened a 2006 La Brisas, a white Spanish Rueda wine. It was clean and crisp and perfect with the crab. The other three legs will be dinner tomorrow night.

Since the weather was nice the grill was started and I roasted a whole chicken. In a spice grinder I put in a teaspoon of red Hawaiian salt, some white peppercorns, some fresh sage leaves, a small shallot and some rosemary. I buzzed it down to a powder and rubbed it inside the chicken and over the exterior skin.There was some polenta rounds left from last week that were frozen so those were thawed and thrown on the grill during the last ten minutes of cooking. That's the yellow rounds in the above picture. The chicken skin was crisp and lightly smoky and the interior picked up the scent of the sage and rosemary. Interesting and delicious.

We revisited the Chianti and Cotes du Rhone from last night. The Felsina Chianti's edges mellowed somewhat overnight, as did its tannin. The acid remained and so did the tremendous cherry fruit and earth. It tasted better than it did on Saturday.

The Vidal-Fleury Cote du Rhone did not seem to improve with the air exposure. It was still medium bodied with good fruit but the finish seemed a little shorter and not as full. It was still highly drinkable and nice with the chicken, but the Chianti outshone it on day two.

An Unpleasant Week

It was back to work on a supposed limited basis this past week, but to quote Robert Burns, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley."

In short, there was little that was 'limited' about it. There are four supervisors and thanks to a long planned cruise, an unexpected death in the immediate family and a sudden incapacitation to save a pregnancy there was suddenly only one, recovering knee and all. There was also a $450K project that had to be completed. That meant there was little wine and even less time during the week.

That changed in a good way yesterday evening.

Dinner was simple; some chicken thighs marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and Turkish seasonings. They were baked in a hot oven, and there was a pot of curried couscous with almonds and currants to go alongside them.

I looked at two wines and made the decision to try them both. The first, pictured above, was the 2006 J. Vidal-Fleury Cotes du Rhone at $14 a bottle. It was spicy and peppery on the nose with lots of soft, ripe fruit jumping out. The flavors were simple and bright with ripe and tart cherries in a good balance. There was a nice rusticity to the wine and I like that in a Cotes du Rhone. Sometimes I don't want polish and finesse, and a good Cotes du Rhone nearly always can be counted on. There was good flavor in the mid-palate and acid and dry tannins helped the wine finish well. It balanced nicely with the chicken thighs. A good wine for the price.

The second wine was a 2006 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico at $19. I have had very good luck with the wines from Fattoria di Felsina, particularly the Riservas. The ones I've had have all been good and this is the new release in the local market. I bought a bottle to drink to see if I wanted to lay away a few bottles. The nose was arch typical Chianti - fruit and dirt. The wine is about balanced, sweet cherries playing off the earthiness and acid. For the price this was a very nice wine and two or three more will find an adopted home with me. I went particularly well with the couscous as the currants and curry really seemed to tame the tannin and highlight the fruit. Full flavored from start to finish and it also went nicely with a small bite of dark chocolate with pomegranate bits to finish the meal.

There is plenty of each left and they have been vacuum sealed. There will be a trip to the market and the meals for the next several days will center around these two wines.

The time changed back to standard time early this morning but someone forgot to tell Scott and Ellie to reset their stomachs, bladders and bowels. At 4:30 they were on the bed thinking it was time to go out. They won the battle of course, and like typical Gordons when their needs are met they are back to sleeping. Maybe they are right - a nap after breakfast sounds like a grand idea!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winter Sky

Yesterday was sunny and the temperature was in the mid 60 degree range, and today the high temperature was 42. No question the season has changed. There are possible snow flurries tonight so the rosemary plants, the parsley and the oregano that are growing in pots will come inside.

Tonight was fagotini di pollo and leftover polenta rounds. The fagotini is chicken thighs boned and stuffed with garlic, herbs and chicken forcemeat. A sage leaf is laid on top and the entire package is wrapped in a slice of bacon. The local market prepares them several time a week and I purchased two for this evening. They were roasted at 400 degrees until the chicken skin was golden and the bacon was brown and crisp. The polenta rounds were dipped in flour, egg and panko crumbs and quickly sauteed until the polenta was soft and creamy in the center and the pank crumbs were warm and crisp. We added a small salad and the remainder of the Perrin Vinsobres "Les Cornuds" from a couple of days ago.

The wine lost its harsh edges, mellowed and was a nice foil for the pungent chicken.

It's dark outside, the dishes are done and it's time for a Lagavulin Distillers edition Scottish whisky.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Surprise

In popular usage the term "October Surprise" denotes a major event that effects an election in either a positive or negative way depending on one's particular view point. There is no way this blog will deal with politics as the U. S. election has been enough to drive me away from radio and television due to the overwhelming volume of nasty ads for both national and local candidates and causes. Thank heaven it will end soon!

October Surprise for our purpose here simply means it was a fantastic day weather-wise for late October in Ohio. There were no clouds in the sky, the temperatures were in the mid 60 degree range and there was a light breeze. It was just ideal and weather that I would love to see day after day.

That made it a major food day as well, and the grill was busy.

The first thing on the grill was some fresh beets. They were wrapped in foil and holes were punched in the foil before they were placed on indirect heat on the grill. Oak chips soaked in water were tossed on the charcoal and the lid was securely in pace on the grill for over an hour. The beets roasted and absorbed a small amount of the smoke. They were cooled, peeled and sliced and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Finally they were dressed with some balsamic vinegar, a touch of Bolivian rose salt and some fresh goat cheese. They were earthy and sweet and just subtly smoky. It was a perfect salad for a wonderful day.

While the beets were chilling they were replaced on the grill by a flat chicken. This was a free range bird with all but the leg and wing tip bones removed. It was marinated in sparkling wine, basil, shallots, tomatoes, salt and pepper and then grilled for an hour over indirect heat. I fixed some polenta loaded with fresh thyme and sage, herb butter, red pepper flakes and several varieties of grated cheeses. It was soft, creamy, fragrant, mildly spicy and just a delightful dish. The chicken was was slightly smoky, tart and delicious.

The wine was a pleasant surprise. I am not a general fan of California Merlot, but the 2004 Villa Toscano Sierra Foothills Merlot was a refreshing change of pace. There were some blackberries and some dark plums, soft tannins, decent acidity and a subtle balance to the wine. It wouldn't stand up to a strong, hearty meal, but it did pair well with the chicken and polenta. There was very little residual sweetness, which is my major complaint about California Merlots. It was a very good wine for this particular meal.

I have no idea on the price because the bottle was a gift from a non-wine drinking friend who was in the area of the winery on business last year. He visited the winery on a break from work and brought the bottle back with him.

The dogs got their weekend walks in early this morning and they spent the afternoon helping to cook and chewing on rawhide bones. They were more than willing to munch on some of the chicken skin and pieces of polenta once it cooled.

There is chicken left and the remaining polenta was poured onto a board, allowed to cool completely and cut into rounds. The leftovers will make a wonderful weeknight dinner this coming week.

October, because of days like this, remains my favorite month in this area. It is doubtful that we will have another day like this until next October as the forecast is for deteriorating conditions and November like weather. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about Ohio wine when it was a premier product in the mid 1800's and in it he described November as "dark and drear." At least I have today to carry me through until good weather arrives again in the spring.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Full Throttle

The knee is definitely not full throttle, but the computer is. After three weeks of running slow and having way too many problems the machine is again purring like a kitten with a full belly of warm milk courtesy of mom. After several wrong and expensive diagnoses the problem was solved for a paltry $13 by replacing a defective memory chip on the main board.

Since the problem was so minor we took some of the money and splurged on a porterhouse steak for dinner. The weather is cool but sunny, so the steak and the grilled bread were done outside. Only the salad and the rosemary potatoes required anything inside.

The wine was delicious. It was a 2005 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds Cote du Rhone Village. The wine is 65% Syrah and 35% Grenache. Earthy and peppery with medium body and great acidity the wine tasted of bright plums and strawberries. It was a great pairing with the steak and potatoes. By itself it seemed a little austere, but paired with the food and little breathing time it just bloomed. The acid was tamed and the tannins softened and that made for a very enjoyable bottle of wine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Aglianico

We have a work around on the computer problems since the replacement part is on back order for a couple of weeks. Things look a little less "intense" on my screen but other than that things should work fine.

A month or so ago the New York Times did a tasting of a large group of wines based on the Aglianico grape from southern Italy.

They seemed reasonably priced and sounded good so the search was on locally for a bottle. Pictured here is the result of the search, a 2003 Alcione Aglianico Puglia. While the Times recommended wines mostly from Campania and Basilicata, all the local market had was wines from Puglia, an area just north of those the Times tasted.

I opened it last week and it was dark and full of blackberries and very dark cherries on the nose. There was nothing subtle about the wine, and since it comes from a hot weather area it's obviously made from fully ripe grapes. There were some nice tannins and decent acid in the wine, but the fruit was foremost. The wine reminded me of a properly made zinfandel - one with some restraint to it. It checked in at 14% alcohol but tasted like it had less. For $15 it's a good wines.

The first half of the bottle paired with a small strip steak and that was a great match. The second half paired even better with some pasta with a fresh tomato and shallot sauce. Two good meals and the wine.

I made a quick call to the local Italian wine guru (and importer) and he said there weren't many in the market, but he had a few from Campania in his portfolio. He decided to drop a few off at the local store for sampling and sample them one night this coming week. Invitation accepted.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Off Line

Sadly, the computer is experiencing some problems so it will be up to a week before we're back to any schedule. Repair parts are on the way.

That said, there will be some good wines and good food while the computer is down so there will be much to talk about when things are repaired.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This and That

I've reached the point with the knee recovery that a glass of wine or Scottish whisky is much better for pain management than a pill.

The weather here in Ohio seems to be like the summer without end as unusually warm conditions continue. The humidity was back for the last several days so the air conditioning was still running. Usually by this time of the year the nights are cool enough to open windows, but not this year. It is not yet "big red wine" season, but there are a few candidates for 'first' when the weather cools down.

Of course this does extend the outdoor grilling season, even though I have been known to knock snow off the grill in order to have a good steak in the winter.

Last night was a couple of medium thick pork chops. The local market carries only Du Breton natural pork from Quebec and it is delicious. We basted them while cooking in a mixture of veggie oil, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, pepper flakes, salt and water. Add a small salad and a little rice and a glass of Domaine du Cara Moulin a Vent 2006 and it made for a nice evening.

Rain is coming in today and the nights are supposed to begin cooling again.

...and the photo above is ripening Chardonnay grapes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So Close...

...and yet so far.

The doves are coming in to eat in the mornings and Scott doesn't think they belong on his sidewalk.

Interesting week. Took a trip to Cincinnati to Findlay Market, and old public market north of the downtown area. I hobbled through several of the buildings and looked at about a dozen butchers and fish mongers before coming home with some large prawns, some chicken, three varieties of sausages and three different kinds of salt. The salt was most interesting. We picked up some red Hawaiian salt, rose Bolivian salt and some peach colored flake salt from the Murray River in Australia. The Murray River is more of a finishing salt while the other two were coarse salt that I put in salt grinders.

We did do a meal around things that we bought that day. We did chicken breasts on a bed of braised leeks and shallots, lots of veggies, some bread and a nice wine to go with it. The wine? A 2005 Domaine Chantemerle premier cru Chablis, Fourchaume. Exquisite. All chardonnnay should taste that good.

The rest of the week I've been trying the salts. The Bolivian was very tasty on eggs while the Murray River was super on a grilled veal chop. Last night the red Hawaiian was interesting on a piece of halibut.

The most unusual part of the Cincinnati trip was waiting while Barack Obama's motorcade passed by us on the way to a rally in a Cincinnati park near the market. That certainly answered our question about why there were so many police on the road south to the market. They were everywhere to the point it looked like a convention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Last Rose' of Summer

Yesterday was a good day.

The minor surgery went well and the physical therapy began, and while painful it wasn't as bad as I expected. Friends offered dinner so we planned a menu and they picked up some items at the market and did everything here.

The weather was summer like with sunny skies and temperatures in the lower 80 degree range, but the forecast was for a big change (and it is raining hard as this is typed). Having no restrictions on diet or alcohol I decided to open one of the two Louis Casters a Damry rose' champagnes.

It was a beautiful pale copper in color and tasted of strawberries and fresh biscuits. It was a wonderful way to start an evening. Wonderful bubbles and medium body with good acidity only made the wine better.

For the menu we decided on a two pound porterhouse steak, a fennel and apple a slaw with juniper berries and lemon and a curried couscous with almonds and currants.

I pulled out a 1995 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva.

It was still dark in color and smelled of fully ripe strawberries and cherries with hints of flowers and some earthiness. The tannins and acids were fully integrated into this wine and it was in total balance. It was as good as a fully mature Chianti gets. It was full bodied and fruity with only enough bite to refresh the mouth. It was a perfect example of how wines improve in the bottle and why I like the taste of a mature wine. It was not old in any sense, but it was mature and at its peak.

The steak was grilled, then carved off the bone and lightly sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil. The wine was remarkable with the steak and the currants in the couscous. There were no problems with the slaw either as the fennel and apple seemed to go with this wine as well. It was a wonderful meal.

There is one more bottle in the cellar and it is on the "drink soon" list as I can't see it improving.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Week Without Wine

...and the week was not entirely by choice.

First, the second half of the Langhe Nebbiolo described below was a tremendous wine. The harsh tannins were gone on the third day and the fruit and bouquet were outstanding.

There was entirely too much time spent at work as recovery from Hurricane Ike was finally completed. In the process I managed to be on a ladder which partially collapsed and suffered a mild, but painful, tear of an ACL in the left knee. That will be corrected tomorrow (Monday). Tonight will be a good wine and a good meal.

With luck the last of the year's hot air balloons have passed overhead. If so, both dogs will be happy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Langhe

Very interesting wine last night. I opened a 2004 Gianfranco Alessandria Langhe Nebbiolo. I decanted half the bottle and vacuum sealed the remainder.

I poured a small sample from the decanter and it was a bit of a wake up call for the early evening. Tannins were everywhere in this wine. After a little swirling I could get some flowery perfume and cherries and a definite whiff of tobacco. There was all that in the taste and more, like some chocolate overtones and perhaps a bright red plum or two. There was very good acidity, but the finish was mouth numbing tannin.

There was a pork roast braising in apple cider, mushrooms and onions in the oven so the wine sat in the decanter for two hours until the pork was ready.

After that two hours the tannins had ceased their relentless grip and the fruit came forward. The tobacco faded to just a suggestion, as though someone a room or two away was lightly puffing on a cigarette. It was replaced with a dry, clean earth impression. The wine was medium bodied and the cherries were there in force. The acid cleared the palate and there was still a good dose of tannin on the finish, but not nearly what there was straight from the bottle. Had there been time four hours would have been even better for this wine.

It was at its best with the somewhat rich pork as both the acid and tannin were refreshing. The wine was $25 and at that price it's a terrific buy as it is almost a "junior Barolo" at a much better price. The other two bottles have been moved to the section of the cellar for longer aging. Two more years should be about right for this wine.

Alessandria's wines continue to impress me. His Dolcetto d'Alba is outstanding for the price and the Barbera d'Alba is very good. The Langhe is the best of the lot before one encounters the Barolo San Giovanni, and there is one of those squirreled away with other two Langhe's quietly getting better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New House Red

The search has been underway for six weeks and there is now a decision on a new "house red" to replace the 2005 Vina Alarba Old Vines Grenache that is now gone from the marketplace.

The winner, pictured here, is Ermitage du Pic St. Loup, a Coteaux du Languedoc wine that is currently in the market for an amazing $10 a bottle. A blend of mostly syrah and grenache with just a dollop of mourvedre the wine is a tremendous value at this price, and with a 10% case discount that makes it $9 a bottle.

Young and fruity on the nose with dark and red berries and dark plums on the nose, the taste hits you with the same but adds some black pepper and tannin to go with it. There's great acidity and more fruit in the finish. The wine is not overly polished and in this case that's a good thing. Probably not everyone's cup of tea but to me it is unique and delicious.

They were tasting this at the wine store and I liked it before I knew the price and before I turned the bottle around to discover that Kermit Lynch was the importer. Lynch is among the top importers in the country in my opinion and his selections nearly always agree with me.

The wine went great with a small strip steak and some veggies and it went great with some grilled chicken and rice the next night. Supplies are good but if they start to run low I have another case reserved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Run, Squirrel, Run

Autumn officially began yesterday, and as if to make that point certain, late yesterday evening a squirrel ran by in a deliberate attempt to infuriate Scott. Mission accomplished for the squirrel.

Neither Scott nor Ellie were happy with this situation since they were both inside at the time and could only observe through the window. The neighbor saw it also so I suspect he will soon start putting out corn again to attract more of them.

This is not the same squirrel that made the near fatal mistake of ignoring Scott early last spring. That tree rodent is minus part of its tail.

The dogs were happy because it's something else to occupy their time and they were getting tired of watching doves.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Winging It - Hurricane Style

On Monday there was still no power and the major search was for a cup of hot coffee. I could heat hot water on the grill, but I always grind the beans just before making the coffee and I didn't feel like taking a hammer and beating the heck out of a plastic bag full of coffee beans.

We finally located a Starbucks about ten miles from home that was serving free coffee. Yes, they get some grief for over saturating the market, but I still like their coffee and the free price was just what I was looking for.

The refrigerator rescue began by throwing things into the freezer compartment in an attempt to save them. Some things were best cooked that day so the grill got a tremendous amount of use over the afternoon.

One of the other things I threw in the freezer was a bottle of E. Barnaut Grand Cru Champagne. If mother nature was going to throw obstacles in my path there was no sense not to thumb one's nose and actually enjoy the day.

One thing that needed to be cooked that day was some fresh shrimp that had been purchased early Sunday morning before the storm hit. When dinner time neared I decided I wanted a soupy shrimp and not just grilled ones.

I tossed the little guys with lemon juice, garlic, chopped shallots, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and olive oil and let the mixture sit while the grill heated. I threw the cast iron skillet on the grate over the hot coals, added a wee bit more oil and tossed in the shrimp mixture. Several slices of crusty bread were toasting on the other side of the grill. I stirred the shrimp a time or two then added a tablespoon of butter, a small bit of chopped, fresh oregano, and a good splash of the just opened champagne. When the entire thing bubbled it was dumped onto a large plate and then ladled into bowls.

By this time the neighbor was peering over the fence inquiring about using the grill so we invited him to join us. He claimed to not be a champagne fan but one sip of the Barnaut convinced him that what he really didn't care for was cheap sparkling wine. This "champagne" was a new and wonderful experience for him.

The champagne was bright and open with hints of green apples and citrus peel. There was a good dose of yeasty aromas to go with it. Nice tight bubbles stayed from the first glass all the way through the end of the bottle. At $40 this was a very good wine.

The neighbor's final comment on the evening was, "You know how to enjoy a disaster."
Scott and Ellie were having a grand time of it. They got grilled chicken pieces and a small pork steak chopped up in their dog food. Ellie, who cut her foot on a broken bottle on Saturday, was wearing a hood so she was doubly spoiled by getting her food hand fed to her. She had the contented look that said, "Peel me another grape."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Baby, You Got Class

The ultimate wine of the hurricane season came Sunday night about five hours after the power went out. It was my intention to roast a Cornish game hen and open a 1990 Lupe Cholet Aloxe Corton. It was about half way through cooking the five rice mixture that the winds blew through and knocked the power out. Undaunted - we improvised.

As soon as the winds died enough to light a match I lit the grill, rubbed the game hen with shallot pepper, wrapped some carrots in foil and made another foil pouch with some of the rice and cooking water. Everything went on the grill over indirect heat.

This was my third, and last, bottle of the Aloxe Corton. The first was very good but faded quickly. The second was dead on arrival. This one was something else indeed.

Opening the wine there was a strong aroma of fresh cherries laid over some dried darker ones mixed with just tilled soil. There was even a hint of cinnamon. Medium to light in color, it looked like a pinot noir should look, somewhat pale. There was just the slightest bit of browning at the edges. The aroma just kept coming at you from the glass, filling the room.

The cherries and dirt were there in full force on the taste, and the tannins and good acidity were there as well. The finish was mellow, long and wonderful. Nothing about this wine was out of balance. It didn't hit you over the head with fruit or tannin to announce its presence, it just wrapped you in its arms and smiled at you.

I suspect this was never an outstanding or over the top wine. It was never Ursula Andress walking out of the surf in Dr. No, a life changing experience if there ever was one. This wine was never a star, but was a secondary player who over the course of her career aged gracefully and never fell apart. In the end, and throughout the evening, this class shined through and never faded. It's good that the third bottle was the best because the first two never would have lived up to this one.

The game hen was delicious, as were the rice and carrots and they matched well with the wine. There was no parsley or basil or other "green things" to decorate the plate because they were growing in pots and the hurricane winds 'relocated' them to parts unknown. In their place I received siding from a house, shingles, mulch, lawn furniture, a grill cover, the top of a post light, three empty soft drink cans, a bird feeder, two balls, an unwrapped Sunday newspaper and at least 273 pine cones, all of which were embedded against the fencing surrounding the patio.

It made little difference, because there was still that wine....