Wednesday, December 30, 2009

George de Latour Reserve 1997

The final wine at the Christmas dinner was a Beaulieu George de Latour Private Reserve from the heralded 1997 vintage in Napa.

Big wine that out of the bottle almost reminded me of an Australian Shiraz.  With a little breathing time the blackberry and dark cherry fruit began to emerge.  Full bodied wine with a big mouth feel to it, good gripping tannins, but a touch low in acid.    After half an hour the earthy component to the wine began to emerge and it became a a much better wine.

The fruit was there, and it was fully ripe.  Underneath the fruit was that earthiness and the tannin from the oak, and the tannin seem to go on forever with this wine.  No doubt the wine needed more time to breathe. This was a very good wine, but not my favorite George de Latour.

All three wines wines with the dinner were good and would have been wonderful on their own, but three bottles always means there will be comparison.  For this dinner the Mazzocco came out on top, followed by the Caymus and the Beaulieu.

Now it's on to New Year's weekend and there are some corks pleading to come out of some bottles.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2001 Mazzocco Matrix

It was a close call, but the best wine with the Christmas prime rib was the 2001 Mazzocco Matrix.

This wine was not as heavy or extracted as the Caymus discussed below.  It had a wonderful nose that not only showed some ripe fruit but had an earthy and herbal quality to it.  The wine was 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Malbec and 17% Merlot.  New oak was also apparent in the nose.

The taste and body was lighter and not as 'in your face' as the Caymus, but still one could pick out cassis and blackberries.  The oak and its tannin were a factor here and this was evident on the side of the tongue.  The acid was great and the tannins were there at the finish. That finish was drier and less sweet than the Caymus and that played nicely off the fat in the prime rib.  This wine cleared and refreshed the palate between bites of meat without leaving a sweet taste in the mouth.

As a stand alone wine it was lighter, but this wasn't about a wine being the raison d'etre for the evening, it was about a wine that was best with the food.  We didn't sit down to drink a bottle of wine, we sat down to eat Christmas dinner and wash it down with a good wine.  That's why this wine shone brightest of the three.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Caymus Special Selection, 2001

The cork came out of the bottle and the room was full of rich fruit, dark, ripe and luscious.  There was an underlying scent of earth and tobacco.

The taste was more than full, it was almost viscous.  There were currants, blackberries and cassis all forward and filling the mouth with the sweet taste of ripe fruit at its peak.  The tannin was well integrated  and not drying at all.  On the finish there was a suggestion of tobacco smoke and length that just kept going.  Opulent is the only way to describe this wine.

With the standing rib roast the wine seemed almost too ripe and came close to being overbearing and cloying.  I would have preferred more acid and a less sweet finish, but these are small matters.  As a stand alone bottle of wine it would be hard to beat, but as a dinner companion it left a few things out of the mix.

I remembered my first taste of a Caymus Special Selection, a just released 1981, that came more than a few years ago.  I stopped by the winery on a visit to Napa and the late Charlie Wagner asked if I wanted to taste some wine.  We walked into the converted chicken coop and he poured a couple of vintages of the estate wine and then said, "try this one."  At that point in time it was the best California wine I ever had.  I was surprised that the cost was only $30 and remarked that I had just been to Stag's Leap the previous day and they were charging an astounding $50 for Cask 23, their reserve wine. 

Charlie Wagner remarked, "Any one who charges you that much for a bottle of wine is just on an ego trip."  I wish that were still true.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Perfectly Said

Two of the professional wine critics whose opinion I value the most are John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter who write the Tastings column for the Wall Street Journal.

In their latest and sadly their last column (which you can read by clicking here) they review the best wines they tasted this year.  Preceding that list is a discussion on what makes a wine great, and it contained the following....

By allowing other people to ridicule any wine you like or criticize the way you enjoy it, or by allowing others to decide for you what is and is not a fine wine, you are genuinely missing the point of wine, which is this: Your enjoyment of any wine is an extension of yourself, your emotions, your experiences and your circumstances when you drink it. A truly fine wine is like a truly fine poem: It's not just about what the poet thought or felt when he or she wrote it, but what you thought or felt when you read it. Different people will experience the same exact wine differently, and vive la différence.
Wonderful point of view!

I wish them all the best now that their column is ending. This is like losing old and valued freinds.

Christmas Wine - The Main Day

In retrospect a Christmas Day meal is sometimes overkill, but it never seems so at the beginning.  Yesterday was no exception.  There was great food, good friends and three great wines that each would have made the day special on its own.  The dinner was three large cuts of standing rib roast of beef, cooked to varying temperatures to satisfy a large crowd of fifteen people with diverse opinions on how well done beef should be.

There are four wines pictured above and three of them were opened and consumed, the fourth waiting for another day and another meal.    Two were opened before dinner to breathe a little while the beef roasted and appetizers were eaten.  Both were from the 2001 vintage in California.  From Napa there was a Caymus Special Selection and from Sonoma there was a Mazzocco Matrix.  After a quick sniff and sip those were put aside to await the beef.  When those two bottles were emptied during dinner the Beaulieu George Latour Reserve from Napa was opened.  The 1996 Robert Mondavi Reserve finished the day with the cork still in it, waiting another meal.

Each wine deserves it's own space and to keep postings short they will get their own page over the next couple of days.

The favorite wine of the evening was the Mazzocco Matrix, a meritage wine from Sonoma County.  It was nicely balanced between fruit extract and oak and it left a drier taste in the mouth on the finish, and that paired well with the richness of the beef. All three were great wines and two probably have longer lives ahead of them but on this evening I preferred the Mazzocco.

Pictured is one of the appetizer plates for the evening.  It's simply shrimp with two sauces, a standard tomato based cocktail sauce and a sauce of mayonnaise, reduced shrimp cooking liquid, lemon juice and blue cheese.   The early wine of the day was 2005 Grosset Watervale Riesling from the Clare Valley of Australia.  Wonderful stuff to sip with appetizers.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Bottles - Grosset Gaia 1998

The holidays began quite well, thank you. Christmas Eve dinner was a small affair here before we move on today and throughout the weekend to some family gatherings and parties.

After an appetizer of some large shrimp in the late afternoon we pan seared some thick lamb chops from free range Colorado lamb.  They were crusted with fresh rosemary, thyme and garlic all finely chopped.  There was a baked potato,popped open on the top and finished with sweet butter and black truffle salt, the smell alone enough to send my appetite into over drive.

From the cellar we pulled a bottle that was resting there for about eight years, a Grosset Gaia from the 1998 vintage in the Clare Valley of Australia.  The wine was 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec and checked in at 14% alcohol by volume.  The wine was decanted for about 40 minutes, though a sniff and sip were almost immediate.

The nose was about dark fruit, cassis and blackberries, with just a hint of some herbs.  The taste and the mouth feel were remarkable.  The wine was perfectly balanced with acid, fruit, and tannin and everything was together and singing some great harmony.  The fruit was softly there but not aggressive, the acid was the same.  The wood and grape tannins held everything together and were only noticeable on their own at the very end.  There was a small burst of fruit alongside the tannins and some cinnamon to clear the palate.

There's a word I rarely use when talking about Australian wines, but this wine qualifies.  The wine was "elegant."  While a little more fruit driven than a well aged Bordeaux, it was a more than worthy companion for those wines.   I'm certain that the eleven years of bottle age did this wine proud.  There was a fair amount of sediment clinging to the sides of the bottle so the wine had definitely changed since bottling.  Sadly, this was the last bottle of three of this wine that I purchased for $30 each.  One was consumed immediately and another about five years ago. This was by far the best of the three.

The photo is a stylized rendition of the real item.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

La Vieille Ferme Rouge

Here's the red version of La Vieille Ferme, this one a Cote du Ventoux from the 2007 vintage. The white discussed below was very good and even better on the second day, so yesterday it was time to try the red brother.

This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. Medium color and weight and a somewhat closed nose, but still smelling of fruit and some light spice. Nice fruit flavor of strawberries and raspberries up front, decent acid but very little tannin made for a short finish. There was little depth to the wine, but then again this is a knock down wine for those times you just want a glass of wine and don't want to critique it. It succeeds on that level, but for the $9 price tag some other wines are more successful. In short - the white is better.

It was actually over powered by a pan seared skirt steak that was only minimally seasoned, but the second half of the bottle on day two was better with a chicken pot pie.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Calamari, Sherry & Flamingos

Great price yesterday on fresh calamari at the market so tonight we feasted. They were cut into rings and tentacles and tossed in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked Spanish paprika. Then they were quickly deep fried so there was a slightly smokey and crunchy crust and tender, sweet meat on the inside. There was a spicy remoulade sauce for dipping, some good bread and a salad with dried cranberries marinated in sweet vermouth for a garnish. Great little meal.

With the calamari we poured a couple glasses of Barbadillo Manzanilla Sherry. It was pale in the glass with a nose of dried nuts and fruit and unmistakable salt spray. It danced on the tongue with the calamari, and really picked up the smoked paprika in the seasoned flour. Long dry finish that simply called for that second glass.

Once the dishes were cleared we poured a glass of Barbadillo's Olorosso Sherry, pictured here. Much darker and much fuller in the nose this wine just begged to be sipped. Toasted almonds and very dried fruit were predominant, and though the wine was fully dry it gave a hint of sweetness at the end. It was perfect as dessert with a few smoked almonds.

The full range of Barbadillo wines are on sale in the local market and they are true bargains at $12.

As Christmas nears there was a mysterious "Package From Pekin" that arrived in the mail containing strange gifts. Among those gifts was another flamingo Christmas ornament which seem to gravitate toward my location. The newest addition to the flock is the resting flamingo in the center of the the picture, posing with about half of total collection. And while we're covering additions to the household we should add that there is now a canine addition as well. There were "two dogs" when this blog started but one of them, Ellie, died suddenly in November of 2008. It took a year but her sister Doer is now here keeping Scott company when no one else is around. She's even getting into squirrel chasing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Old Farm

So along with the new "house red" discussed below it appears there may be a new "house white" for every day drinking.

La Vieille Ferme (the old farm) Cotes du Luberon Blanc is on sale in this area for $6.99 a bottle. That was too good a bargain to pass up so after a slight chill the screw cap came off last night with some pan seared red snapper. Mineral nose with some hints of lime. Good, clean, fresh taste of white peaches and lime peel. Good acid and a suggestion of oiliness on the finish. The dry, sharp finish was great with the fish.

The wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc and Roussanne. The oily finish had to be the Roussanne, but I couldn't pick up this variety in the nose. Well made wine that is easily drinkable without damaging the budget.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monte Antico 2006

I think we have a new house red.

I purchased a few bottles of Monte Antico 2006 Toscana last weekend and cracked one open last night. I've had several vintages of this wine and it has always been good, but for the $11 price this wine was a big step up from those other vintages.

There were tart cherries and plums and a little bit of Tuscan earth in the nose and that's exactly what you got in the taste. There was acid and fine, integrated tannin to balance everything out. We ate a small steak and a little pasta with the wine and it was even better with the food.

A little research showed that this wine is 75% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown in Tuscany. The same research revealed that it was on the Wine Spectator's list of the top 100 wines of 2009. Even the WS got this one right.

If you are looking for a delicious wine with some substance and character for a reasonable price you can stop your search.

Impressive wine for the price.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pouilly-Fuisse & Termanthia

Last night was basically the opening night of the holiday season with friends, and it started in great fashion with one very, very good wine and one extraordinary wine. Dinner was primarily fresh crab cakes, that were mostly crab and only a little stuffing. They were seasoned, rolled in panko bread crumbs and sauteed in a skillet.

The wine is pictured above. It was a 2005 Verget Pouilly-Fuisse Terroirs de Vergisson. The wine was light gold with a nose of crisp melon, lemon, a hint of butter and light touch of oak. There was perfect acidity to this wine and that only heightened the lemon butter feeling in the mouth. The finish was long and pleasant. Everything was together with this wine and it was near perfect with the crab. Very good stuff.

After dinner a friend's cellar was raided for a red wine and up came a 2001 Bodega Numanthia Termes Toro Termanthia, a Spanish Tempranillo made from from some very old, ungrafted vines. This was a massive wine that was dark purple to the core. The nose was all about black fruit, coffee, earth and chocolate. The taste was very ripe dark fruits with fresh roasted, black coffee and chocolate overtones. The tannins were huge, but fit the wine perfectly. With this much stuffing to it I was expecting low acid, but the wine finished with more than enough acid. The finish seemed to go on for several minutes. Over the course of the evening the wine continued to open up with more fruit and more earth coming out. This was a rare treat that will be hard to match over the holidays.

The third wine of the evening was a complete and total disaster. The wine was a 2000 Torbreck Descendant from Australia. Brettanomyces made this wine totally undrinkable. No amount of air time could make the "wet horse in an unclean barnyard" smell go away. Horrid stuff, but another glass of the Termanthia made up for this sad wine.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seven Artisan Meritage

The weather stayed cold, but the sun was bright yesterday so the outdoor grill was calling. We answered that call with a dry aged strip steak, baked potato and carrots.

The wine was a Seven Artisans' 2006 Meritage from the Suisun Valley in northern California. This is the same winery that produced a wine I liked a lot last spring, 2005 Sly Dog Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Straight from the bottle to the glass the nose was a little closed, but some swirling brought out cherries and raspberries and some other red fruits. The body was medium, as was the color in the wine.

The taste was straight forward, bright fruit with some good tannin and acid, but with the steak some darker fruit came out, blackberries primarily. The tannin and acid cleared the palate after a bite of steak and there was a touch of wood on the finish to complete the wine.

Overall this was a better wine with food than it was by itself. There wasn't quite enough depth for it to standby itself, but if you have a steak nearby it would be a good match. The wine checked in at 14.1% alcohol so there was no problem with a second glass with the meal. Surprisingly there were some fresh blackberries in the fridge so we sniffed then ate a couple of them and confirmed that the darker fruit coming out with the steak was blackberries.

Keeping Things Honest:

One thing I've noticed on other wine sites lately is a disclosure about the source of the wine being discussed. That's an idea that I like a lot. After reviewing the Sly Dog Cabernet Sauvignon referenced above, and buying four more bottles while it was available in the local area, the winery provided this wine. The review is honest and now the source of the wine is honest also.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sandrone Dolcetto 2005

This morning was 55 degrees and sunny, and by this evening it was cloudy, windy and 20 degrees. Wind gusts were up to 50 miles per hour. Winter is definitely here.

So that made it a red wine night and the wine of choice was a Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto D'Alba from the 2005 vintage. Deep, and dark in color the nose was plums and berries and fruit, with just a hint of vanilla and earth. The plums and berries were there in the taste and the body was big, soft and sweet. There were some nice tannins on the side of the tongue, good acid and a long finish. This wine had a more substance than most Dolcettos. It's hard to ask more from a Dolcetto.

Dinner was a one pot meal of riso pasta cooked like risotto, meaning all the rich starch stayed in the final dish. There was a pinch of saffron and some shallots in the mix. Near the end there was some diced chicken breast added and at the very last minute a large handful of chopped fresh spinach. The dish was finished with some grated cheese.

Throw in a small salad and a crusty roll and some good wine to wash everything down and it made for a good start to the evening. There were supposed to be guests coming in from South Carolina but road conditions and weather delayed them by four hours. The left overs will heat up nicely. They may even get a glass of wine if there is any left.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Marchesi di Barolo 2001

Cold, but sunny, yesterday and after a week of turkey leftovers it was time for some beef. We found a good sized chuck roast, browned it, added the pancetta, vegetables, etc. and it happily cooked for about three hours. It warmed the house with its aroma and did wonders for my appetite.

After the somewhat disappointing sparkler from earlier in the day (see below) it was time for some serious wine, and nothing is more serious than Barolo. When the beef went in the oven the cork came out of a bottle from the Marchesi di Barolo, 2001 vintage. A little went into the pot with the beef but a large portion went into a decanter. A small amount also found its way to my glass. Beautiful, classic Barolo color of medium garnet, but there was a very closed nose. With some swirling and a few minutes a little dry leather and some earth showed up. About an hour later there were roses and bright, tart cherries coming out of the glass. The wine in the decanter remained closed.

When the beef was nearly done we made some polenta, adding cheese and butter at the end and finally stirring in black truffle salt. Amazing smells filled the kitchen and even got Scott away from the window where he was anxiously watching for squirrels, particularly the one that had a near death experience with him earlier in the day.

Then it all came together; hot steamy beef, creamy polenta that smelled of truffles and a rich, red wine. The wine was still somewhat closed but still offered a nose of fruit on a base of earth and leather with a few of the roses kicking in. The taste was tart cherries and clean earth. The big Barolo tannins were present on the sides of the tongue, but they weren't harsh in any way. The acid was more than acceptable. The routine became a bite of beef, a dab of polenta and a sip of wine. It's a routine I would like to be more frequent. Very lengthy finish on the wine, ending dry with a suggestion of the cherries. This is a wine nearing its peak, but certainly one that has some years of life ahead of it. As with my comment below about not drinking enough sparkling wine, I can repeat that sentiment with Barolo.

There's a small amount under vacuum left in the bottle and it will be fun to try it later today.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


There is a major shortcoming concerning wine in my life that I share with many others. I don't drink nearly enough sparkling wine. That has nothing to do with not liking sparklers, it's just that I rarely think of them. It's also due to the fact that except for the month of December most merchants put their sparklers in the corner, rather than displaying them in a more prominent location. It's the old "which came first - the chicken or the egg" conundrum. Are they in the corner because they don't sell other than at holidays or do they not sell except at holidays because they are in the corner.

Enough! They were displaying sparkling wines today and I brought one home and put a slight chill on it. The wine is Toso, a 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine from Argentina. It wasn't a wine I was a familiar with but an internet search said that it is Charmat process wine, not surprising since it cost only $10. Still, a $10 sparkler could be a good thing.

So how's it taste? I do like a slight chill on my sparkling wine and that kills a lot of the nose so unlike still wines I tend to drink first and sniff later. This wine tasted like a sharp lemon curd with just a hint of pineapple near the end. The after taste was pretty much confined to Granny Smith apples. The bubble action was acceptable and there was more than enough acidity. A few seconds after the finish there was a suggestion of residual sugar that I didn't care for and that taste lingered for some time. What was missing was the yeasty smell that I love in Champagne or other méthode champenoise sparklers, wines that have their secondary fermentation in the bottle instead of in bulk.

I left a little in the glass to come to room temperature and the warmer wine revealed a one dimensional nose of apples. For $10, this is a good wine and a decent buy, and it would be great for Champagne cocktails. It's also a wine I won't be drinking a lot of out of a flute.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Couple of Kinkead Ridge Wines

Since this past weekend was the southern Ohio barrel tasting it seemed only fair to do a preview and a postscript in the wine and food department. That's exactly what we did.

On Friday night we opened a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and couldn't have been happier with the results. This wine is doing great in the bottle - and is doing better out of the bottle and in the glass. Great Cabernet structure with some forward fruit, good body, nice acid and tannins and oak that have integrated into the fruit. The nose was fruit, wood and tannin and smelled like Cabernet should smell. It was extremely food friendly with a pan seared pork chop and some riso pasta doused with 2009 pressed olive oil and some Pecorino Romano and black pepper and sprinkled with a little black truffle salt. Just the suggestion of the truffles being in the pasta brought out the earthiness in the wine. Very good wine that has to be at its peak, but not showing any signs of fading.

On Sunday we finally got around to fixing a turkey here at the house, having managed to eat at two other houses on Thanksgiving proper. We cooked the thirteen pound bird on the charcoal grill over indirect heat. It was a cool day and it took almost 3.5 hours but the results were great. There were a few oak chips scattered on the charcoal and that gave the brined bird a hint of smoke in the meat.

One of my favorite side dishes at Thanksgiving is one that I don't get unless I make it myself. So, there was a large pan of stuffing loaded with Chesapeake Bay oysters and some good oyster brine, fresh thyme, garlic, onions, celery, a little rosemary and small amount of red pepper flakes. It went into an aluminum pan and was baked on the grill with the turkey for the last hour.

There was one glass of the Cabernet left so we sampled some turkey with that and were more than pleased. The main wine was the second Kinkead Ridge wine of the weekend, the 2008 Viognier Roussanne. At the barrel tasting at the winery Nancy Bentley informed us that the Wine Enthusiast had rated the wine at 87 points. The review will be on the W.E. website in February. Good score and good progress in getting some national publications to look outside of California, Washington and New York.

The wine could still use some time in the bottle, but there was more than enough to like about it now. Fresh and young it tasted like a very good Rhone wine. The melon flavors were there along with some earthy spice, a little citrus and tart young grapes. It had the oily mouthfeel of a Condrieu. It was great with the turkey and with its notes of citrus peel it matched well with the oyster stuffing. The wine is 53% Viognier and 47% Roussanne.

The top photo is the Viognier grapes in the Kincaid vineyard in September of 2008, just before harvest.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Barrel Tasting, Kinkead Ridge and La Vigna

Today was barrel tasting day at some of the wineries in this area so that meant some driving and sipping. And since the samples were small there was little worry of overindulgence.

Between the two wineries we visited (Kinkead Ridge and La Vigna) we tasted five barrel samples from the 2008 vintage, and three red wines from the bottled 2007 vintage and two whites from the bottled 2008 vintage. The results were quite interesting for the red wines and consistent at both wineries. The 2007 wines are big, full flavored, young and delicious. The 2008 wines have many of the same characteristics but seem to add a dimension of elegance to that mix. Both are very, very good vintages in this area. Sadly, the 2009 vintage is very poor - the price one pays in this area.

At Kinkead Ridge we tasted, in order, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The Syrah was the most closed of the wines, the Cab Franc the most open and instantly appealing, the Petit Verdot the darkest and most flavorful, but the Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite. Flavor, body, acid, tannin, oak were all first class. Time to put away some $ between now and September of 2010 when the bottled wines will be released.

This past September I purchased a mixed case of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the 2007 vintage, and it was good to taste those wines again to see how they were developing. I have yet to open any of mine. I was more than pleased with the progress the two wines showed in the bottle. Again, the Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite.

From Ripley, Ohio we headed downriver and inland a short way to visit La Vigna, holding their first ever barrel tasting. No one in Ohio has a prettier setting for a vineyard, a gentle slope overlooking some hills in the distance. Sadly, my camera was not part of the equipment on this day.

La Vigna makes only two wines, Proprietary Red Wine and Proprietary White Wine. We started with the barrel sample of the 2008 red wine. This wine was wound really tight out of the barrel and it took some seriously swirling to open up. There was fruit and spice, a healthy dose of oak, good acid, and in the end a flavorful finish and burst of fruit that I liked. This wine also got my interest because of a change in oak that I want to watch develop. The 2007 Red (their first vintage) used Kentucky white oak with French ends while the 2008 is aging partly in white oak from Minnesota, again with French ends. The grain on the Minnesota oak is tighter. An interesting experiment that needs some time, but if the barrel sample is correct it's an experiment that's working.

As at Kinkead Ridge the 2007 bottled wine was brawnier, a stand up wine with a lengthy finish. Once again, I found a little more elegance and balance in the 2008 version. The wines is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. There were only 24 cases made in the 2007 vintage.

We also tasted the bottled 2008 white wine, a wine that is 100% Petit Manseng, As much as I hate sweet pineapple in overbearing Chardonnay wines, I liked the pineapple in this wine. It was tart and refreshing as opposed to sweet and syrupy and it was the result of the grape and not the overuse of oak. There was also some spice in this wine, a bare hint of cloves. This was a full bodied wine and had a mouthfeel like a Condrieu to me. 64 cases were made of this wine.

The wine budget will take another hit come release of La Vigna's 2008 Proprietary Red.

Friday, November 27, 2009

White Thanksgiving

There were two Thanksgiving dinners yesterday, one early in the day with wines and one later in the day with water. The wine accompanied dinner was obviously my favorite of the two.

By pre-agreement there were only white wines at the dinner and all three were good but very different. Each made it's own mark and the day proved an interesting experiment.

The menu, of course, was turkey and we found profound differences in the wines as it related to the bird.

The three wines were a 2007 Handley Gerwurztraminer from Medocino county in California, a 2007 Leitz Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett from the Rheingau, and a 2008 Huber Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

The Handley had the Gerwurz funk going on in spades; musky taste, cloves, cardamon, etc. After several samples we decided it was best with the dark meat of the turkey. The extra body in the wine paired well with the slight gaminess in the dark meat. It tended to overpower the white meat from the turkey breast.

The Leitz was delicate, smelled of lime zest and wet slate and was a great match with the breast meat, but was overpowered somewhat by the darker meat. The acid was super on this wine.

The Gruner didn't really match with the turkey at all, but it really perked up with the side dishes of green beans, corn, bread stuffing. Amazingly it matched very well with a cranberry and orange salad.

Three good wines, good food and good friends.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Washington Hills Riesling

There's lots of talk lately about good Rieslings coming out of Washington State. It's a rarity to find a good one coming out of California, but Washington and Oregon show promise - along with New York, Ohio and Michigan.

There was a somewhat spicy chicken breast the other night so I unscrewed the top on a Washington Hills 2008 Riesling. The nose smelled sweet and perfumey, not really a good thing in my book. There was sweet apple and a little pineapple in the nose along with perfume. The taste was more pineapple and kiwi. The acid was a little low in this wine and the residual sugar was a little high. It had been sitting on a shelf next to a "Late Harvest" Riesling from the same winery and I opted for what I thought would be the drier of the two.

It probably was drier than the late harvest version, but this wine was more a cross between a German Spatelese and an Auslese. It really didn't go well with the chicken breast.

Last night I drank the second half of this bottle but the meal was different. There were two chicken egg rolls and a bowl of spring onion soup. The wine was somewhat better with the egg rolls than the chicken breast, but when the fiery hot Chinese mustard was added to the mix it finally found its pairing. The mustard was sinus clearing, but the residual sugar in this wine cooled that somewhat.

Not the best American Riesling I've had by a long shot, but it was finally good with the mustard.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Late last winter I bought a mixed case of 2006 Chianti Classicos. They were squirreled away for the summer and mostly forgotten save for an extra bottle of Fattoria di Felsina that I found mismarked at a wine shop. That wine was very good.

Last night I opted to try the 2006 Querciabella. There was some veal scallopini and pasta, a salad and some crusty bread for picking up the sauce. The sauce on the veal was full flavored and tart, thanks to some lemon juice and zest added at the end of cooking.

The minute this wine hit the glass my nose told me it was a winner. It gushed of sweet, medium dark cherries, a little spice, some wonderful clean earth and a wee bit of smoke. Every one of those flavors was there in the taste, and there was nothing shy about the depth of those flavors. The fruit was exceptional. The wine had that wonderful, sharp Chianti acid and enough tannin to refresh the mouth between sips.

It married with the veal like they had known each other for years. The wine picked up the veal, and the veal did a lot to bring out the fruit in the wine. It's not possible to ask for much more from a Chianti Classico, other than to ask for another bottle. This is the standard to which the other 2006 Chiantis must measure up. Just an excellent wine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2005 Chateau Gloria and 1999 Oroppas

It was a sunny but cool yesterday and the college football scores were all correct from my point of view. To celebrate a friend fired up his grill and pulled out his corkscrew for a late afternoon dinner.

There was a method to his madness as the 2005 Chateau Gloria from St. Julien is on sale at one of the local outlets and he was trying to determine whether to buy a few extra bottles to put away. We volunteered to help with the experiment.

We snacked for awhile on some duck pate with orange peel and pistachios and a Sweet Grass Dairy ripened cow's milk cheese from Georgia. There was also some crusty bread and Olio Nuovo discussed below. We decanted Gloria for a little more than hour, pouring an small initial amount into the glasses just to sniff and taste. Fruity in the nose with hints of some wood. The taste was still closed so we left the wine alone.

Dinner was a small saddle of lamb and baked sweet potatoes so there wasn't much work to do.

When the meal was ready we poured the wine. Definitely medium weight cherries and some clean earth in the nose. The wine tasted of dark cherries, some red currants and earth. The acid was great and the tannins were moderate and soft. There was a very good mouth feel to this wine. It was smooth and balanced. It wasn't an overly big wine, but Gloria never is. The wine has a couple of years before it hits its peak. I liked the earthy finish on this wine.

As the meal was ending the cork came out of the 1999 St. Clement Oroppas from the Saint Helena area of Napa Valley. This was a bigger wine with fuller fruit and a different flavor profile. Here there were dark currants, blackberries and plums. Though it was a bigger wine than the Gloria it wasn't over the top. There was good balance, good acid and tannins. A very good wine but it was more one dimensional than the Gloria. That dimension was fruit, and I preferred the Gloria because it mixed some earth in with the fruit.

I wouldn't turn down a bottle of either.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2005 Mazzocco Petit Verdot

Brambly and prickly on the nose with medium dark fruit and some earth. Good medium dark fruit in the taste with a little bit of greeness which I liked. Not overly ripe and jammy and that was a big plus. Lots of tannin but they were well integrated and not coarse at all. Good acidity. Nice long finish and only 14.5% alcohol.

Dinner was a small beef tenderloin that was pan roasted. There was a pan sauce made while the meat was resting, wine, shallots, garlic, Dijon mustard, beef stock and butter. Good meal with the wine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Domaine du Salvard 2008

Lots of new stuff on the shelf a couple weeks ago when I was at one of the local wine stores. Last night the cork came out of one of them.

The wine was a 2008 Domaine du Salvard, a Cheverny from the Loire region of France . The nose was alive with spring grasses and citrus peel, a very fresh smell. The citrus was predominant in the taste with some tart, green table grapes along for the ride. There was a bit of fresh orange juice mouth feel to this wine, but in taste it was mostly about grapefruit. The acidity was tremendous and there was good length to the finish. The wine reminded me most of a Sancerre, though the price was about $10 cheaper. What made the wine even more drinkable was the 12% alcohol. One could have an extra glass with dinner without falling asleep after.

There were some day boat scallops for dinner that were pan seared over high heat on one side and then basted with butter and pan drippings after being turned in the skillet to brown on the other side. Once they were barely done they were removed from the skillet and some lemon juice was added to make a bright, citrusy sauce. The wine and the scallops were nearly perfect together.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sausage and Shiraz

One quick dinner over the weekend that was really good. Those are breakfast sausage links that were browned in an iron skillet. Some thinly sliced garlic was added, along with some fresh chopped rosemary and a little water. In went some fresh table grapes and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Everything cooked just until the grapes were cooked through and began to pop. There was some crusty bread and some rice to make a meal.

The wine was a 2004 Cascabel Shiraz from the Fleurieu peninsula of Australia. Somewhat understated for an Australian Shiraz. Good fruit flavors and depth without being overpowering. Lots of sweet fruit in the nose. Full bodied but actually showing some restraint. 14.5% alcohol. Nice drinking wine at this time and perfect with the meal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

2009 Olio Nuovo

In addition to wine one of the special pleasure of the fall arrived yesterday, a freshly pressed olive oil from the 2009 harvest. In this case it is from the California Olive Ranch Olio Nuovo and the olives were harvest just over a week ago.

It was cracked open last night. It's bright, vivid green, almost an electric green. There's lots of fruit in the nose, some tartness and a somewhat minty aroma. The taste is pure, fresh olive with a few added herbs, primarily rosemary. The pungency shows up in the mid-palate and the finishing bitterness and mild heat is there at the end.

The oil was poured into a small container and some crusty bread was dipped in it. Delicious. By the end of the weekend there will be some tossed with freshly made pasta. Good stuff.

As an added bonus, the first shipment of wine from Michel Schlumberger arrived today. I'm away until Sunday, but the weekend is going to end very well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

California Odds and Ends

The photo at the left is downtown St. Helena in Napa Valley. The dog is waiting patiently while his owner is eating a late breakfast inside a small bakery (the morning buns were delicious). It's was nice to be in St. Helena after the summer tourist rush had ended.

One other wine we drank that deserves some love here was a 2004 Rochioli Pinot Noir. Dark purple in the glass, the wine was loaded with flavors of cherries. The tannins were settling a little and the acid was sufficient. It was quite a mouthful of wine for a Pinot, probably because of the 14.5% alcohol. Still it matched nicely with a roasted chicken and bread salad served as the entree. It is nearly always a treat to drink a Rochioli wine and this one was no different.

One more dog photo below. The dogs in question here are Gizmo, a Papillon, and Sophie, a Gordon Setter puppy who has been in the country only a month from Britain. The two had just had a bath and were recovering in the sunshine on the deck. After all, the title of this blog is "Two Dogs...."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Michel Schlumberger Winery

This is a somewhat longer post than normal, so be forewarned. One of the highest points of the California trip was an impromptu visit to the Michel-Schlumberger Winery in Dry Creek Valley.

From reading their winery blog I had been interested in the winery, and having found only two of their wines in the local market I wanted to taste more. I very much liked their 2003 Maison Rouge and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which were discussed here last Spring.

We were heading north on West Dry Creek Road and passed A. Rafinelli winery and spotted Quivira Winery. I visited both of these wineries in the early 1990's and still think they make good wine, though the Rafinelli wines are getting a little high in alcohol. Winery Creek Road, which leads to M-S, was dead center between those two wineries. We made the left turn and drove the quarter mile to the winery, pictured above, and stopped unannounced.

We were greeted warmly, especially by Luke, the winery's 14 year old Tibetan Terrier who stayed with us for almost the entire visit. Sometimes it helps to smell a little bit like a dog and give good ear scratches and tail rubs.

The three of us tasted several wines. Let's not beat around the bush - I liked every wine I tasted. All were flavorful and balanced and had moderate alcohol levels. 90% of the wine I drink is with food and each of the wines tasted would be delicious with food.

The 2008 Pinot Blanc was tart and refreshing. It almost reminded me of a Vinho Verde from Portugal. It was well balanced and just cried out for a plate of calamari or a summer picnic.

The wine I was least looking forward to was the 2007 La Brume Chardonnay. Most California Chardonnays for the last ten years have been food disasters. They are big, buttery, oaky and high in alcohol - everything I don't like with food. The problem is that they sell in the market place. After the second sip of this wine I knew that the decision to visit here was correct. There was good fruit, sharp acid and only enough oak to make the wine interesting. There was a little bit of spice and a good core of Asian pear, sweet, crisp apple and it finished with a hint of minerality. Thank heaven there was no syrupy pineapple in this wine. It would be great with a pan seared chicken breast on a bed of butter braised leeks and pine nuts.

The 2006 Pinot Noir was also a pleasant surprise. It was medium weight with bright cherry flavors and a wonderful earthiness on the finish. Good wine.

There were two Cabernets up next, a 2001 Estate Cabernet and and the 2006 version of the same wine tasted side by side. The 2001 was fully mature and laid back with a bit of fresh mint on the finish that I particularly liked. The 2006 was young and tannic but had greater body. It had good dark cherry and blackberry flavors, wonderful acidity and a wonderful finish. The 2001 is for drinking now and the 2006 is for putting away for a couple of years.

The final wine was the 2004 Deux Terres Cabernet Sauvignon, the reserve wine. It was a definite step up into the special treat category. There was a lot of dark fruit in this wine, especially fully ripe black plums. There was spice and earth, particularly I thought I could pick out a hint of cloves. There was a slight smoky taste in the finish. This was a big wine, but it was incredibly balanced and food friendly.

By the end of this day I did something I have never done before, I signed up for their wine club. I've visited a lot of wineries in California and elsewhere over the years but this was the first one where I liked everything they poured. At most wineries I will find a wine or two that I like and several that aren't really my cup of tea. I always felt it was better to simply buy the few wines I liked in the local market and not bother with the ones I didn't care for. With the difficulty of finding their wines in this area it was time to make an exception.

As the visit ended Luke was kind enough to walk us back to the car and he got one more ear scratch before we headed farther north.

Beaulieu Rutherford 2002

It was an absolutely beautiful day yesterday and since there was a sale on porterhouse steaks the grilling season continued. The steak was large enough for several folks with some left over for Scott.

The wine was a Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon from the heart of the Napa Valley. Dark, mature red in the glass with a nose of dark cherries, cedar, cassis and a hint of chocolate. There was quite a bit of sediment clinging to the sides of the bottle as the first glass was poured. The dark cherries were prominent in the taste with some blackberries hiding underneath. Great acid and soft, mature tannins. This wine felt good and full in the mouth. The end was long with a little more fruit, some smoke, some tannin and a little bit of good, clean dirt to finish. The wine was 13.8% alcohol, proving again to me that Napa does not need to extract alcohol of 14.5% and above to make great wine. There was subtlety to this wine and it was delicious. The Beaulieu Rutherford remains the best value in Napa Cabernets to me. This wine was bought on sale for $19 several years ago. The current release is $28.

There were some potatoes finished in duck fat to go with the steak, and we picked the last tomatoes of the year to go in a small salad. The tomatoes were in a small, protected corner so the frosts had missed them, and they get morning sun. The vines just kept on producing and I kept on harvesting.

The three on the bottom of photo are ripening on the counter, but we managed five more for a total harvest of eight. The additional five were in last night's salad.

Today will be equally beautiful and that means one more day of grilling. With the days getting shorter and darkness coming before 6:00 PM I find we are eating a little earlier in the day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

1999 Penfold's Grange

It's always good to have friends who call and say, "I want to open a good bottle, what are you doing?" The answer in this case was, "I'm on my way."

The 1999 Penfold's Grange was the star of the evening. It was decanted for a little more than an hour. The color was inky dark, almost black. Initially the nose was totally closed but with some time in the decanter blueberries, blackberries, warm spice and damp earth peeked out. When dinner was nearly ready we poured the first glass from the decanter. One could smell the wine from a considerable distance and it literally filled the room with its aromas..

The taste was massively fruity up front with blueberries and cherries, fully ripe. It stayed that way through the mid palate with some earth and tannin kicking in along the sides of the tongue. The finish was sweet without being over the top and ended with some cedar and leather kicking in to match the fruit. Neither the acid nor the tannin stood out, but for a huge wine it still left the mouth refreshed and wanting more. Completely balanced and a total pleasure.

This was really a comparative tasting, and not designed around the wine. There were two cuts of lamb for dinner, a rib rack and a loin rack, and each was prepared simply and identically. It was interesting that even though the wine was magnificent with both, the extra gaminess of the rib rack made the wine jump a little more.

As an additional comparison there was a second wine, a 2003 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet from Napa Valley. This was a good wine in it's own right with dark cherries, cassis and earth, but it was certainly overshadowed. It was interesting that I actually preferred the Stag's Leap with the loin rather than the rib rack.

The bottom line, I've had some extremely good wines this year but I suspect that the search for my own "Wine of the Year" is probably over. This wine was a rare treat.

The photo was compliments of my friend and was taken with a cell phone camera. I was so excited about the wine I forgot to take my camera to document things.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wines, Dinners and Coals to Newcastle

There were several good dinners consumed in California and more than several wines. Pictured above are two wines we drank with an unusual braised pork dinner. On the right is the 2005 Helios Cabernet Franc from Corison winery while on the left was a completely new wine to me, a
2004 Cartuxa, Evora, Tinto Colheita from Portugal.

The Helios was young and fresh with tart blueberries and some darker cherries in the taste. There was also a slight vegetable hint to it that I found appealing. Good acid, moderately low alcohol and young, green tannin balanced out a full fruit flavor. The Cartuxa was a darker wine in both color and taste, and also tasted a little riper. Definitely dark, sweet cherries and deep dark plums were prominent. The tannins were a little softer and it was a little lower in acid than the Helios, but the finish was long and flavorful. On my initial sip I felt it was going to finish a little sweet, but that didn't happen. Both were nice wines.

The braised pork was a shoulder that had been cubed and marinated in a dry rub for a couple of days, then braised in white wine, milk and tomatoes. It was very good and a surprising hit. The sauce cooked down and would make the most wonderful cream of tomato soup. I liked both wines with the pork but would give the nod to the Helios for the slightly higher acid.

Earlier in the week there was a rib eye roast that was seasoned simply and cooked in in a moderate oven. I always make it a habit to take a bottle of wine with me so this year for the first time I took an Ohio wine, Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2004 vintage. Like the title of this piece says, taking an Ohio Cabernet to northern California is rather like carrying the coals to Newcastle to help the city burn a little more. It was a very good wine that is now at its peak. The tannins have matured and softened a little but the wine retained good acid and its currant flavors. Good match with the rib roast and not out of place in any way in some very good company.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2006 Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45

The 2006 vintage of the Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Cote du Rhone is currently on sale in this area for $11 a bottle. Sunday night was about a good steak from the grill and a pyramid of curried couscous set on a bed of dandelion greens.

The wine is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Lots of bright cherry cola flavors from the Grenache and a little bit of darker, crisper fruit from the Syrah made this a bargain at the price. Good acid, a wee bit of soft tannin and a nice pleasant finish paired well with the meat. The soft tannin and the 13% alcohol also meant it went well with the heat from the curry powder in the couscous. Good wine for the next couple of years.

Still working on more California notes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Corison, Kronos Vineyard 2004

Let's start at the top. The intent on the recent California trip was to stay in Sonoma County, primarily the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. Strange things always seem to happen, so on the first day we decided to go to Napa Valley for lunch. And if one is in Napa valley it isn't too difficult to find a winery.

We were eating in the south end of St. Helena and about 200 yards south of us was the Corison Winery.

Regular readers of this blog know my current dislike for the majority of Napa Valley Cabernet based wines. I consider them sweet, alcoholic, over extracted, too ripe, unbalanced and tiring to drink. No question that they are well made wines, but they simply overpower most food and are so alcoholic that one glass is enough to cause a buzz. It's not my style of wine.

There are exceptions and Corison is certainly one of them. There are three labels at the winery and the Corison label is only used on the two 100% Cabernet wines, the Napa Valley and the Kronos Vineyard. We tasted the 2006 Napa Valley and the 2004 Kronos Vineyard along with a Gerwerztraminer and a Cabernet Sauvignon rose' under the Corazon label and a Merlot and a Cabernet Franc under the Helios label. The best came at the end with the two Cabernet Sauvignons.

The 2006 Napa is a blend of several vineyards in Rutherford and St Helena. The wine was tight in the nose with hints of spice, dry leather and bright fruit. The taste was about dark cherries and ripe plums. The acid was high and refreshing. The tannins were young and prominent, but smooth and tight. The finish left one with fruit and a hint of chocolate. Very good wine.

The Kronos Vineyard 2004 was like a trip to the past when I loved Napa Cabernets. The wine was dark with a nose of cherries, spices, cedar and dark chocolate. All of that was there in the taste of the wine along with some blackberries and good, clean earth. Again, the acid was a delightful surprise. The tannins were plentiful but they were ripe and soft. This was a big tasting wine, but it was so balanced with acid and tannin that it just cried out for two years bottle age and a rib roast or some venison. It has been a long time since I had a Napa Cabernet that I enjoyed this much.

Both of these Cabernets were 13.8% alcohol by volume. They aren't inexpensive wines by any stretch of the imagination, but they are definitely delicious. For the record the Napa Valley wine is $70 at the winery and the Kronos is $125.

I'm not in the habit of paying over $100 a bottle for wine, but I made an exception for one bottle of this wine. It was a special treat and in a couple of years there will be a wonderful meal around this wine.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home Again

It was a great trip to California and there were some great visits, great wines, good food, great friends and two new canine friends made. Pictured above is the northern end of the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. The photo was taken from the upper deck of the Sbragia Family Winery. The vines were all turning red, yellow and brown and shutting down for the winter, and it didn't take long to decide that the end of October is a perfect time to be in this area. There are lots of details and notes to organize and lots of photos to sort over the next week or so.

The only downside to the trip was the return flight. My itinerary called for a flight from San Francisco to Denver, Colorado, and then on to Dayton, Ohio. Unfortunately Denver was hit with fourteen inches of snow the night before my scheduled arrival. That shut down just about everything. I spent six hours in the Denver airport, instead of the scheduled forty minutes. They changed my departure gate three times to add to the confusion, but the plane finally made it out of town. Instead of arriving in Dayton late in the evening the plane finally touched down just before 5:00 AM. Scottish whisky is very expensive in the Denver Airport.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Research Trip

Off in eight hours to California for some research along West Dry Creek Road in Sonoma County. Details in a week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

Sorry for the title of this piece but I've been watching the Monty Python documentary currently running on IFC.

This coming weekend we'll be heading out to San Francisco and the wine country north of the city, primarily some wineries along West Dry Creek Creek road in Sonoma. There will also be a couple of meals at good restaurants and I found it interesting that both the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have current pieces on wine lists in San Francisco.

The point both articles make is how the wine lists are dominated by European wines even at restaurants that feature local sources for their menus. The reason most often cited in both pieces is that the European wines are lower in alcohol and match better with food than the local California wines. For those of you who regularly read this blog you already know that the majority of my wine drinking is European for those exact reasons.

The two pieces are very interesting and both are worth the read.

Eric Asimov at the New York Times

Jon Bonne at the San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chateau Mazeyres 2005

Nice visit with some friends yesterday and one of them was generous and thirsty - always a good combination in the the world of wine.

After a few snacks he wanted something special so he pulled the cork on a 2005 Chateau Mazeyres, a Pomerol. He and I each bought a couple bottles of this at $30 apiece on the recommendation of a third party when it first hit the market . The wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

This is definitely not your grandmother's Merlot. It was inky dark in the glass and there wasn't much coming out in the way of a nose. After a minute or two of swirling there were deep, dark cherries, earth, oak and spice starting to pop out. The taste was intense with deep fruit flavors, good acid and a blast of tannin from the-mid palate on. The hype about 2005 Bordeaux wines was true for this particular one. My best guess is that it needs five years to show it best stuff.

My friend then admitted that he had returned to that particular store and bought two more bottles after his initial purchase, and his only regret was that he didn't buy more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

I gave the wine discussed in the post below another try and not only did it not improve in a vacuum sealed bottle in the fridge, it deteriorated even more.

Some remnants of the last half of the bottle are pictured here as it quickly works its way down the drain in the kitchen sink. I believe the Vernaccia was a bad bottle as I don't think any winery would deliberately release something this foul.

Time to get in touch with a few friends who like Italian white wines. I'm sure there are Italian whites in the market that are distinct and tasty, but this simply wasn't one of them. My only qualification is that the wine not be predominantly chardonnay. It sounds like a good winter project.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Acme to Nadir in Three Short Days

Years ago I developed an aversion to Italian white wines because every one I tried was poor or tasteless. I dearly love Italian reds, but whites were a different thing.

I decided it was time to revisit Italian whites and the Fontaleoni Vernaccia Di San Gimignano from the 2007 vintage was the starting point. I love the red wines from Tuscany, so why not start with a white Tuscan.

Saturday we opened and drank an outstanding white wine in the 2004 Willi Schaefer Riesling from Germany. That was the 'acme" or the "apex." The San Gimignano was certainly the "nadir" or to put it differently, the pits.

For a 2007 it tasted old, tired, and flat. There was decent color but the wine tasted oxidized and smelled more like a rotten melon or an over ripe banana, There was little or no acid. There was a long finish, but it was not a pleasant one.

There is plenty left in the bottle and it will get another taste tonight, but I suspect that it will most likely find the drain in the kitchen sink.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Willie Schaefer 2004 plus Three

There was a repeat offering with friends last night of the spiced pork tenderloin with pomegranate and apple cider sauce discussed below.

There were three Rieslings on the menu, one from Germany, one from Australia and one from Oregon. Two were very good and one was simply outstanding.

First up was a 2005 Grosset Watervale Riesling and it was every bit as good as before. Light, refreshing, citrusy with some minerals and a good length of finish made for a great before dinner wine.

Next up was a Chehalem 2006 Reserve Riesling which had been discussed previously on this site. It was more full bodied than the Grosset and had bit more smell of kerosene. The fruit was a little more forward and there seemed little underpinning of minerals.

The Willie Schaefer 2004 Riesling from the Mosel in Germany was next. If I were ask to define what I want Riesling to be and how it should taste I would use this wine as an example. Greenish gold in the glass the aroma was all about white peaches, tart apples and earth. There were a few flowers poking out of the nose as well. The taste was the peaches and apples with an overlay of some citrus all sitting on top of clean, dry minerals. Great body, just a touch of sweetness and a tremendous length of finish all put this wine at the top of the class. With the food it was even better. All three Rieslings were good with the food, but the Schaefer was several cuts above the others. This was just an outstanding wine.

The evening ended with a red, and it was probably the biggest disappointment of the evening. The wine was a 1998 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet. The wine was beautiful in the glass, but the wine was tired and well pat its prime. Hopefully this was a bottle variation since I have a bottle of this in the cellar.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barbaresco Moccagatta 2004

While doing the shopping this morning I wandered through the wine department at the market while they were preparing for the wine tasting later in the day. One of the five wines to be available was a wine I have resting in the cellar, the 2004 Moccagatta Riserva Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco. Three hours later I ventured back to the market for a taste and was very happy that there are two bottles of this wine in the cellar.

The color was classic Nebbiolo, purple and pale. There were sweet, young plums and definitely some violets in the nose. With some swirling the flowers and earth predominated. The taste was tight and closed at first, but there was good body and young, astringent tannin adding to the package. A few sips later the fruit was there with good acid to balance its ripeness. There was a little bit of spice to the wine as well. The tannins were like the gift that keeps on giving.

This wine needs three to five years to bloom but even at this early age it was crying for a pot of braised short ribs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2007 Apremont

Cheeses, pates, crackers and salami for dinner last night so I opened something from off the beaten path, a 2007 Pierre Boniface, Les Rocailles, Apremont, Vin de Savoie. It took longer to type that name than it did to get the cork out of the bottle.

The nose was all minerals and herbs with only a hint of grapefruit. The taste had some citrus to it but was mostly like licking a piece of limestone or some river rocks. Good acid made this tart and fresh and very appealing. The acid carried the finish along for a good ride. Refreshing, uncomplicated, and very good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chainti Classico and Lamb

Beautiful weather yesterday evening, and I managed to get home in time to enjoy it.

There were some thick lamb chops seasoned with fresh thyme and rosemary and some garlic that found their way to the grill, and there was some fettuccine with asparagus and shallots to go along with it.

The cork came out of a 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico. The nose was what I was expecting with the bright, tart cherries, herbs and earth. It's medium to full bodied with great acid and good tannins. It provided the right balance with the lamb and proved to be a good sipper over the course of the evening.

There are four bottles of this wine in the cellar but this was one I picked up on the recent stop at a wine store in Kentucky. It was on clearance because the 2007 vintage is on its way to the shelves. It was $15 and was the last bottle they had in stock. Good buy - good wine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn Meals

The market on Sunday was displaying a number of items we normally see only in the fall in this area, and ones that I love. First was freshly pressed apple cider, and a jug of that came home with me. Second, there was a display of pomegranates and I couldn't resist a couple of those either. The other thing that jumped into the basket was a pork tenderloin, though that is hardly seasonal.

There was also one totally non-seasonal thing that made the journey home, fresh asparagus. It had been awhile since asparagus looked good, but the stalks flown in from Chile looked good.

Come dinner time I seasoned the pork with salt, pepper, and small amounts of cumin, allspice and cinnamon. The tenderloin was seared in a skillet until brown and crusty and then popped into the oven to finish. Into the pan went a cup of the apple cider. While that was reducing we removed all the seeds from the pomegranate and crushed the juice out of them using a potato ricer. This produced just shy of one cup of juice and that went into the skillet with the cider.

While that reduced by about two thirds the pork came out of the oven and rested for a few minutes. I strained the sauce to remove bits and pieces and returned it to the pan. I added some cornstarch liquefied in some more cider and let the sauce thicken slightly. Just before slicing the pork I added a tablespoon of butter to the sauce and whisked it in to blend.

The acid in the pomegranate and the cider really livened the sauce and the butter added just a touch of richness.

There were two leftover wines, the 2008 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling and the 1996 Chateau Beausastel Chateaneuf de Pape, both discussed below. The star for this meal was the Riesling as the apple flavors in the wine and the acid from the pomegranate were singing some great harmony with the pork. The Beaucastel was good with the meal but it was at its best after the meal as dessert of a small square of dark chocolate studded with cranberries and blueberries.

Some friends called after the meal and after asking what I had for dinner and hearing the results there is another pork, cider and pomegranate meal planned for next weekend. I imagine there will be several Rieslings.