Wednesday, April 30, 2008


It's been awhile since I drank a Chinon so that situation was remedied over the last two days. The wine in question is a Charles Joguet 2005 Cuvee Terroir. It was going for $15 and when I walked by the shelf at the market it asked me to take it home. Not wanting to be inhospitable I did just that. I even let it rest for three or four days before pulling the cork.

Bright, tart cherries and barely ripe strawberries on the nose and the initial taste. That carried through to the finish. There may have even been a few red currants lurking in the background. Good palate cleansing acidity and some nice tannins on the finish, and the finish was of more than acceptable length. A very nice food wine for this price.

The first half (well, two thirds) was a nice match for some veal scallopini with tomatoes, mushrooms, lemon and parsley. The veal was served with some fresh, porcini tortellini that were tossed into the sauce at the last minute. The Chinon (cabernet Franc) was just wonderful with this dish.

The last third was great with some spice rubbed chicken thighs roasted at high heat in the oven. I think the wine was better the second day. It definitely had not deteriorated.

The phone call has been made and there are three more bottles of this wine reserved.

While speaking on the phone to the market I learned that this year's lobster fest is set for Saturday, May 24. The market charters a plane and flies in a huge load of live lobsters from either Maine or Nova Scotia at an extraordinarily great price. This will be my tenth anniversary with this event. It has become one of my favorite days of the year because I buy enough to feed family and good friends and everyone brings good wine. This year we have committed a Chablis, a Sancerre, an Albarino, two California Chardonnays and one Australian dry Riesling. Good friends, good wines and good food. Life doesn't get much better than that.

The photo below is a bowl of lobsters and sweet corn from a couple of years ago. Yes, I'm excited about this.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Supper

It was a nice Sunday though the rain moved in at the very end. It's raining now and the next few days promise to be poor.

Nice price Saturday on a free range chicken so it was brined, air dried and coated inside and out with herbs de Provence. Then it was just roasted over indirect heat on the charcoal grill. I don't think there's anything that smells better than a chicken roasting. The neighbors agreed with me. They were bringing in carry-out food for their evening meal and had to walk through the area downwind from the grill.

Both dogs were tired as they both had long walks in the morning. Scott in particular was tired as he had to clear the river bank of way too many Canada geese. His sister had virtually ignored them while trying to get a duck in the river, but Scott doesn't feel the geese belong on the shore. The roasting chicken definitely revived them.

There was some steamed Basmati rice and some sugar snap peas to accompany the chicken and the remains of a Saturday night bottle of 2005 Louis Chavy Mercurey, a modest little burgundy that was a disappointment on Saturday, but redeemed itself with the Sunday chicken.

On Saturday it was all about dirt, tannin and acid as there was almost no fruit to be found. It did have a beautiful and true color for a burgundy, but that was about all that it showed. After being open for 24 hours the fruit was beginning to show a little. Not a great wine by any means, but good and serviceable, though at $20 there are better wines available.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


A rainy morning here and it promises to be that way for most of the day. That will delay the gardening for a nicer day.

I went out just as it was getting light to take the above picture of some blossoms with raindrops clinging to them. As as started back in the house I took the below picture of four jealous eyes, Ellie on the left and Scott on the right. Ellie was scheduled for a long walk this morning, but it is raining heavily so she will have to wait until this afternoon. The"spring shearing" for both was scheduled for the patio this afternoon, but the rain may interrupt that as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Swordfish Wednesday

We have gone from very early spring to full summer here in Ohio in the course of a few days. Today was 78 degrees and humid, more like late June than late April. Since it felt like summer there was no reason not to eat like summer.

I marinated a fresh swordfish steak in olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary and lemon peel for half an hour and the tossed it on a hot grill. There was some Kaljira rice (very, very small grain) that cooks quickly and some steamed asparagus.

While the food was cooking there was tall gin and tonic made with Tanqueray Rangpur gin. G&T may be one of the best parts of summer. For a wine I chilled down a Burgans 2006 Albarino. It is almost perfect with seafood. Tart and sharp on the nose with lots of grapefruit and other citrus. There was great citrus flavor with some underlying flowerniess and a long wonderful finish. The wine is a tremendous bargain at $13.

The fish was cooked to the rare side of medium and the smoke from the grill combined with the rosemary, garlic and lemon for a wonderful flavor. A little white pepper and a dusting of Malden sea salt when it came off the grill made it a wonderful meal. The asparagus was steamed to medium and then drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil.

The sun was just setting and the bees were gone and it is too early for flies so we ate outside on the patio. It was a nice treat to eat outside and enjoy the weather. All in all it was a wonderful evening, topped off with one scoop of dark chocolate and orange gelato made locally by our upscale market.

Rain is forecast for late tonight and a front will be here Friday night so the weekend will be damp and cooler, with highs in the 60's. It may be the last weekend of the season for a big red wine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring IV

A last few pictures from Sunday morning. All the photos except the one on the bottom right were taken at the Cox Arboretum just south of Dayton, Ohio. The exception was taken at night in my front yard. The tree is just beginning to bloom so there will be a few more pictures of it as its cycle progresses.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring III

It has been a wonderful day here in Ohio and here are a few more pictures to prove the point.

The first is a bouquet of wildflowers that someone left on a bench in the woods. From their freshness I must have missed the person or persons who picked them by only a few minutes. Sad that they felt the need to pick the flowers. In my mind I can see a youngster picking them and then forgetting to take them with them when they left the area. While I wish they had left the flowers alone it is still a wonderful picture of spring wildflowers on a wooden bench in the woods.

The second shot is a "Betty" Magnolia tree. If I find myself very irritated with a puzzle lover I will have this shot converted to a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and send it to them as a gift.

The fourth shot is a bergamot plant in bloom, the extra ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

The wine is a 2006 Leitz Dragonstone riesling. We drank that wine last night. The nose was just full of green apples and limes with a touch of under-ripe pineapple and a wonderful whiff of kerosene. That's exactly what the wine tasted like, and there was a tart earthiness (minerality) to go with the nose. There was a fresh piece of Alaskan halibut, liberally sprinkled with chipotle powder and pan seared to go with the wine.

What I like about German wines in the spring is the low alcohol and high acidity. They have the freshness that just sings of spring. The Dragonstone remains one of my favorite German wines because it doesn't try to be anything more than young and refreshing. The 2005 vintage seemed to have more body and staying power, but the 2006 is just delicious. There are several bottle of the 2005 left in the cellar and we will add a couple bottles of the 2006 to keep them company.

Finally, there is an excellent series of small articles in the New York Times today discussing global warming and its effects on vineyards. I can hardly wait to start drinking Napa Valley Grenache from the Rutherford Bench. The article is well worth reading and is accessible here.

Spring II

It appears that spring has finally decided to stay in the area and the flowers are cooperating, along with the wildlife. These shots were from early this morning while the lighting was good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Morning After

Tax Day has come and gone and the federal, state and city income tax returns are slowly crawling their way through the postal system in route to the correct locations. In years when money is owed I always wait until the last day to pay the pound of flesh, and though it wasn't a large amount I waited to the last day to 'render unto Caesar.'

Once the chore was complete it was time to celebrate so we went top shelf for the evening. There was a small rack of lamb that went on the grill after bathing in Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary. There were some cut up redskin potatoes tossed in garlic, olive oil, rosemary and pepper and baked in the oven until crispy.

Finally, there was a 1996 Staglin Family Cabernet Sauvignon that had been resting in the cellar for some time. It was decanted while the lamb and potatoes cooked, though a bit found its way into my glass. Deep and dark color with a somewhat restrained nose at first. After some swirling there was fruit and earth and blackberries. The first sip was wonderful. The fruit was there, there was great acidity and very round tannins. The finish was remarkably long and in the very end left just a little acid and tannin to clear things for the next sip. The depth of the fruit was just amazing. There was a sweetness that came from perfectly ripe fruit and not fruit left to hang until the ultra ripe stage that seems so in vogue today. The wine was perfectly balanced. It was 13.8% alcohol.

When the lamb and potatoes were done I poured a generous glass from the decanter. The nose was now alive with dark cherries, blackberries and cassis. Another sip confirmed what the first sip had promised and expanded on it. The wine was ready for the lamb. The gaminess of the lamb was complimented by some gaminess in the wine and the tannins and acid in the wine cleared the palate between bites of lamb. The mouth-feel on this wine was just remarkable, full and rich.

The wine was perfectly mature and I can't see it getting much better, though it certainly should hold for a few more years. That is great because it has a "litter-mate" resting in my cellar. Over the course of the evening the wine remained constant. It took over three hours but at the end of the evening the wine was gone.

This wine reminded me of why my first love in wine was Napa Valley Cabernets. It was a 20 year romance that ended several years ago when the 15% "fruit bombs" became the fashion of the day. At one time the cellar was probably 80% Napa and Sonoma Cabernets. Now it holds less than 20% of those wines, and those that are there are 1997 or earlier. Sad what has happened for the sake of fashion.

So -- we now have nominee number two for the best wine of the year. The first wine to consider was the 1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo La Vigne that we drank in January. It's nice to know that if I can't decide which is the best at the end of the year there is another bottle of each in the cellar. New Year's eve is looking very promising.

Scott and Ellie were also in a wonderful mood last night as they got to eat the trimmings from the lamb.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cheap Red Wine

The search for an every day, good, red wine is proceeding, with a detour or two. The major detour was yesterday when the local wine store managed to find four more bottles of the Vina Alarba Old Vines Grenache (2005) that has been the house red for almost a year.

There was a sale on the Torres Sangre de Toro ( Blood of the Bull) at $7.99 a bottle. It's a wine that I used to buy fifteen or twenty years ago, but one that had fallen from memory. The 2006 is 25% Carignan and 75% Grenache, or if you are Spanish it is Carinena and Garnacha Tinta. Good fruity nose with some strawberries in it. Medium body with good acidity, and just a hint of tannin. There was a flat and unappealing spot in the the middle that tasted like the floor of the bull arena - and that isn't exactly prime territory. It is 13.5% alcohol, so it isn't over done. It drinks well without having to put much thought into anything but drinking it. At the price it's a decent wine.

The weekend weather did indeed turn cold again, but that didn't stop a meal of New Zeland caught orange roughy on Saturday. It was pan seared with a dusting of smoked paprika. There was a 2005 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, a Saint Veran. There were flowers and honeysuckle on the nose with ripe pears and apples in the taste. Definitely low in acidity so it tasted more off dry. A decent wine, but at $16 not one I would buy again.

Since the weather was colder today there was a large pot of beef short ribs braised in white wine and chicken stock with black, green and Szechuan peppercorns and a lot of garlic. Served over some noodles and dressed only with the de-fatted and reduced braising liquid it was a great and filling end to the weekend.

The Sangre de Toro got its audition with the meal, and performed as described above. It isn't quite as full as the old vines grenache and it definitely failed with an after dinner bite of dark chocolate. It lacked the fruit to stand up to the chocolate and I suspect the carignan. It is highly drinkable but I doubt it becomes the new house red even at its $7.99 price point.

The house white remains the Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanca, a 100% Viura wine at $6.99 a bottle. Not much chance of that going off the market and even if the price goes up 25% it would still be a bargain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


An Ohio Spring is finally here and the first flowers are now out of the ground with their promises of good weather to come. Like a typical spring in this area those promises sometimes seem distant. They are predicting snow flurries for this weekend.

Bad weather likely means that the freezer will be emptied of all the braising material and something will get that treatment this weekend. I'm thinking a big pot of short ribs might be in the offing.

The dogs are busy chasing birds and squirrels. Scott made a near catch again yesterday on a tree rodent when it failed in its attempt to jump from a short tree to a larger tree. It landed on the ground but still managed to get to the trunk and safety before the jaws of death clamped on his tail. He also got involved in a soccer game with some teenagers in the neighborhood and they are thinking of making him a goalie. He had a great time chasing the ball, and given any warning at all it was hard to get the ball bye him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ocean's Alive

It was a great weekend weather-wise, the first great weekend of spring so we went into total summer mode and made the first rule for the weekend - it had to have once been underwater. In other words, it was a seafood weekend and it was as good as the weather. The fishmonger outdid himself.

On Saturday we went to friends' house and took a huge slab of Alaskan halibut that was just off the airplane. We heated a cast iron skillet on the outdoor grill to something in excess of 500 degrees. We dusted the fish, cut into serving portions, with chipotle powder, added some grape seed oil to the skillet and tossed them in, flesh side down. The quickly browned and we turned them over, closed the lid on the grill and let them finish cooking while we stir fried some sugar snap peas. Along with a small salad it made for a great meal. The wine was a 2005 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royeaux. Tart and crisp with a good dose of that Chablis minerality. Not the best Chablis I've had, but it was perfect with the halibut.

Today was equally as good. There was a five pound bag of Cape Cod mussels that came in on a different plane. We sauteed some shallots in butter, along with some chopped fresh fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and Thai chili paste. Once the fennel and shallots were softened somewhat we added a cup and a half of Riesling and the mussels. They steamed in a pot with a tight lid just until they opened. The mussels were removed and we added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and some heavy cream to the pan and cooked the sauce down for a minute or two. We dumped it over the mussels.A handful of parsley and some crusty bread and it made for the second great meal of the weekend. The Riesling assuaged my guilt about eating from both U.S. coasts in one weekend since it was a 2006 Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley wine. Kinkead Ridge is about 40 miles from home.

The Ohio River Valley was once regarded as the Rhineland of the U.S. Thanks to black rot and odium the wine production died in the late 1800's. It is now being revived and Kinkead ridge is in my opinion the premier winery in the region. Their Riesling is very Germanic in style. It checks in at only 10.5% alcohol and is very close to a Kabinett in style. There is the kerosene or petrol on the nose and the hint of sweetness on the finish, all balanced by great acidity. The sweetness tamed the fire in the chili paste and the acidity was just a perfect match for the richness of the mussels. Toss in a loaf of locally baked, crusty bread to mop up the juices and there was no need for anything else.

Life is good.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

She Knows

How she knows, I know not, but Ellie definitely knows that the large bowl which sits on top of the upright pie safe in the kitchen and normally holds her rawhide is empty. She and Scott each get a chunk of rawhide after their dinner and it contents them for almost half an hour. The standard procedure is for each to go to the living room and happily munch away until Ellie finishes hers. She then annoys Scott to the point where he gives up and lets her finish his as well.

Last night was no different, except that they received the last two pieces in the bowl. They chewed happily away, then helped me finish some leftover chicken pieces and pasta. As I was finishing the dishes and cleaning the stove Ellie wondered back into the kitchen, parked herself directly in my path and stared at the bowl.

I finished the cleaning and went to the computer room and Ellie came in and nuzzled me, walked back toward the kitchen, stopped and looked at me. When that didn't work she came back for more attention and when she had it she turned and walked toward the kitchen again.

This went on for some time, and any time I went toward the kitchen she went with me and looked at the bowl. Even if the bowl is full and she wants another piece she never uses this routine. When it was time to go outside before going to bed for the night I found her in the kitchen again calmly snoozing in front of the pie safe.

Of course she was devastated this morning when there was no post-breakfast rawhide. Scott is still happy looking for birds and squirrels, but Ellie's entire day is now ruined and her attitude is much like the picture of her above.

So....this morning's schedule has been altered. Stop #1 is now the pet store for rawhide. The pharmacy, the grocery and the fish monger can wait, but the first thing in the car will be rawhide.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Mild weather yesterday evening between periods of rain so the grill was fired up for two medium lamb chops with a side of fresh pasta with mushrooms and leeks. Nice meal.

The wine was a Clos La Coutale Cahors. Berries and cherries dominated the nose, along with just a whiff of fresh rain on gravel. The wine is 80% malbec and 20% merlot. Medium weight, not a huge wine, and not at all like some of the Argentine malbecs in the market here. This is definitely old world and checks in at a modest 12.5% alcohol. The fruit was strong in the taste without being overwhelming and there just enough tannin to make things work. A pleasant dose of acid and minerals on the finish made this a great buy at $14. It's a Kermit Lynch selection, so being good is almost a given.

The fresh rain on gravel came back overnight as we saw about 3+ inches of rainfall, and it is still raining. Indoor cooking this evening, though the forecast promises a truly great weekend with temperatures Saturday reaching the upper 60 degree range.

Last fall I went to an Italian tasting that featured three barolos, three brunellos and three barbarescos. I love good wines made from sangiovese but the three brunellos, which are supposed to be 100% sangiovese, were my least favorites of the tasting. Reviewing my notes from the tasting I described them as overdone and clumsy and not tasting like sangiovese.

This morning Eric Asimov in the New York Times has an interesting blog column on a developing scandal in brunello about some top producers being indicted for adding other grape varieties to their wines. Here is a direct link to the article, and Eric includes several more links to other sites discussing this. As it turns out my least favorite wine of that tasting was the Antinori. The group rated it high, but I didn't think it tasted at all like sangiovevse. Antinori was one of the wineries accused of"doctoring" their wines by the Italian authorities.

This seems like a good scandal to follow since it smacks of dishonesty on the part of these producers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spanish Eggs for Everyone

That wasn't the intent this morning, but it was certainly result.

The dish consists of small rounds of smoked sausage lightly browned and three slices of tomato (in this case the yellow ones) quickly browned in the same skillet. The tomatoes go in the bottom of a small gratin dish while the sausage rounds line the edges. De-glaze the skillet with a little Sherry, reduce it and pour it over the tomatoes. Add two fresh eggs, sprinkle with white pepper and grating cheese (Pecorino this morning) and bake in a hot oven just until the whites are set.

That is the intended method, but this morning attempt #1 fell to the floor as it was going in the toaster oven.
"To hell with the squirrels - there's great stuff on the floor!"
It shouldn't take long to attribute that quote to the resident canines who did a remarkable job of cleaning the floor. One paper towel and one spray of disinfectant and my job was done.

Attempt #2 actually made it to the table so the entire household is happy this morning.