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.