Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It might look like the finale at a fireworks extravaganza, but it is actually the head of a dandelion gone to seed.

It's been cool and damp for several days and work has been a little overwhelming as it is the end of the first fiscal quarter of the year. That said, there was a good meal tonight that consisted of some carrots and shallots and a chicken breast. The chicken was pan seared and then finished in the oven and there was a tarragon, cream pan sauce to go over the top.

The wine was the last bottle of the Gianfranco Alessandria 2006 Dolcetto D'Alba. Good wine, nice price, easy to drink. Who could ask for more?

Below is another picture of the same dandelion.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

White Burgundy

If I was going to design weather for any particular day I could never do better than what we experienced here yesterday. It started with a cool, clear morning and progressed to a sunny afternoon and evening. There was little or no humidity, there was a breeze for the entire day and the temperature range was from the upper 50's in the morning to a high of 79 in the afternoon. "Almost perfect" is the only term to describe it.

That same term could apply to last night's wine, a 2005 Verget Macon Bussieres "Vigne de Montbrison." The wine was medium weight and smelled of a cisip apple with an overlay of pineapple and a touch of melon. The wine was tart with acid but mellowed out with a light touch of oak that was very restrained. The oak was a highlight and not an overwhelming part of the wine. There was the same restraint when it came to the taste of butter. It was perceptible, but it complimented the crisp fruit rather than trying to either overpower it or become the central focus. At the end it was still that last little bit of acid that left one with the desire for another glass.

The best part may have been the $20 price sticker still on the bottle. I bought the wine two years ago and it has been gently againg since then. It's not the best white Burgundy I've ever had, not even close; but it may have been the best $20 white Burgundy. There is one more in the cellar.

Dinner was fresh Alaskan halibut dusted with chipotle powder then pan seared on the grill. When the fish was cooked some herb butter, white wine and lemon juice were added to the hot skillet and swirled to make a sauce. There were carrots and shallots and a small salad to go with the fish.

After dinner we sat outside and watched as the first hummingbird of the year buzzed the feeder after flying in from Central America. The after dinner nectar was a 1997 Smith Woodhouse vintage port. A perfect evening to end a nearly perfect day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fatorria Le Fonti

I purchased some 2006 Chianti Classicos and a few riservas from the 2004 vintage so it's necessary to drink some wine as I have the happy (or unhappy) problem of running out of storage room. The happy part is getting to drink some nice wine, the unhappy part is perhaps drinking a few too early.

2003 was a hot dry vintage in Tuscany and most wines are big and somewhat hot. There are few older vintages in the cellar (2001, 1997, 1995) and a good amount of a superior 2004 vintage so the 2003's became the chosen lot.

First up was Fattoria LeFonti riserva. It's exactly what one would expect. There is good fruit and it is fully ripe and warm. The acid is interesting because it comes at you in two waves. There is a small taste of it with the fruit and then another dose after the finish. That second dose cleared the palate. Still it tasted a little over ripe and the fruit was a little heavy. There was some earth in the wine, but I would have preferred a little more. This is a good effort and nice wine to drink, but not a wine to remember. It did go well with some spinach pasta with pesto sauce and a couple of slices of an unusual Prosciutto; unusual because it was made in Iowa and not Italy.

I'm still learning and playing around with the new photo software so clicking on the photo will give you a better idea of the mosaic tile effect. I love new toys.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Last night was mostly about leftovers. Saturday's steak was very large and not all of it was eaten. I took it out of the refrigerator and allowed it to some to room temperature. It then hit a hot skillet for just a minute on each side. There was a pan sauce with shallots, Dijon mustard, red wine and lemon juice. There was some stir fried asparagus and a small salad.

The wine was fun. It was a 2006 River Village Cellars Cabernet Franc, an Ohio River Valley wine. River Village Cellars is the second label for Kinkead Ridge. The nose was bright, fresh raspberries with a little cherry underneath. Medium to light in color in the glass the wine still had a wonderful bouquet to it. The fruit was totally forward and the oak and tannin in the wine were balanced to make this a wine to drink and enjoy. This was a wine that didn't require serious thought or contemplation. It was enough to just open it and enjoy what it was offering.

Since this was the wine in the pan sauce it matched up with the steak, and there were a couple of crusty rolls to mop up the remaining sauce while sipping the wine.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cote De Brouilly

The good weather ended about the time I lit the grill this evening. The rain came in and is expected to stay for four days. Still, it didn't put out the fire.

The wine was a 2005 Potel-Aviron Cote De Brouilly. The wine is beyond it's bloom of Beaujolais youth and heading toward a really delicious maturity that older Cote de Brouillys evolve into. It wasn't quite there yet. The fruit in the nose and the taste were a little reserved and the acid seemed just a little high. The deep cherry - strawberry taste was there but was subdued. The finish was nice and long. It had ceased to taste like a young Gamay wine and is on its journey to taste like a pinot noir. This is my second bottle of this wine. The first was consumed on issue and was alive and fruity. The lone remaining bottle will wait a couple of years for its opening.

Dinner was a grilled veal chop with some wild mushroom ravioli and a small salad of mescalin, roasted yellow beets and fresh goat cheese dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.

I also tasted another glass of Barbaresco discussed below. It was still tannic, but not nearly so much as yesterday. The fruit was coming into play and the flowers were there in the nose. Probably at its peak tomorrow and there is still one glass left to try then.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


After a busy week that was mostly cold and miserable the last two days have been perfect on the weather front with sunny, blue skies and warm temperatures.

There was a tremendous wine tonight, a 2005 Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco, a cooperative winery. This particular wine is their blend of selected vineyards and is 100% nebbiolo. Taking a cue from past experience the wine was decanted for six hours with only an occasional sip to check on its progress. The color was medium, but red to the edges. There was red fruit and spice in the nose along with some flowers and earth. The fruit was full on the taste and the acid was wonderful, but like any young nebbiolo the tannin was intense and drying. As the wine sat in the decanter the tannins faded only slightly. It definitely needed food.

There was a sale on ribeye steaks so one of those went on the grill, and there were some oven roasted potatoes with Italian spices. The hit of the meal was a simple dish of organic carrots and shallots sauteed in butter. We added a tablespoon of water and some tarragon, covered the pan and let the vegetables simmer and steam, then took the lid off the pan and let them caramelize. At the end I tossed in some fresh tarragon.

The dish was earthy and sweet and almost perfect with the Barbaresco. It tamed the tannins more than the steak and potatoes did and it brought the fruit forward while minimizing those tannins. This was a very nice match.

There is half a bottle of the wine left, and it will be interesting to taste it over the next several days. It's good enough that there are two more bottles stuck way back in the cellar. They won't make a second appearance for several years.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Little Reading

Cold, dreary, damp evenings are made for forcing the dog out of the recliner, sipping a wine and just doing some light reading. Monday evening that was the exact weather conditions locally, and there was little of interest on television. The wine of choice was a 2005 Kinkead Ridge Syrah, a local wine that is drinking well at this point in its life.

During the reading I came across this quote from Oliver Goldsmith and decided to share.
I love everything that's old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.
If he had added 'old dogs' it would have been perfect.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mas de la Dame

Easter was about typical Easter food - ham, green beans, baked beans, potato salad, etc. It was also about the first rose' of the year.

In this case it was Mas de la Dame (Farm of the Women) 2008, a beautiful pink wine from Provence. The wine is 50% grenache, 30% syrah and 20% mourvedre. The nose was like one had stepped on and crushed a few ripe strawberries. Pale pink in the glass, there was good acid and body to go with the strawberry and light raspberry taste. It was particularly good after a slice of ham with a honey, mustard and horseradish sauce, and a raspberry pie for dessert did nothing to diminish the wine.

There was also a 1998 Kilakanoon Oracle shiraz from Australia. This wine was still tightly wound and full flavored. It tasted heavy and sweet after sipping the rose' but it was still a good wine. The same can't be said for wine #3, a 1998 Oak Knoll pinot Noir from Oregon. This is a wine I have had before but this bottle was old and tired. After a tiny burst of fruit at the start it was nothing but tannin and shrubbery.

The picture above? Actually it's a composite of two pictures. The foreground is the wine sitting outside on Scott's grooming table. The sky was from another shot early yesterday morning looking east at sunrise. I just like the colors and effect of the two together. Just like wine the best picture is sometimes a blend of more than one part. The wine was shot in the evening on Saturday with the sun directly behind the bottle. A fill in flash was also used to highlight the label a little.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fresh Halibut

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in southwest Ohio. There was full sunshine and all the new, green that spring brings with it. It was cool, but a light jacket was all one needed to be outside.

One more sign of spring is the appearance of Alaskan Halibut in the area seafood departments. The fish is bright white, clean, and totally refreshing. It was dusted with a bit of chipotle powder, pan seared on the flesh side for a minute to give it a slight crust, flipped over and finished in a hot oven with a couple of crusty rolls. The sauce was a reduction of orange and lemon juice with butter added at the last minute. There was fresh asparagus and some Butanese red rice to fill out the plate. The red rice is firm in texture and has a distinctly earthy taste to it that I find appealing.

The wine was a 2007 Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone Blanc. The nose was interesting because there was a bit of banana hiding among the ripe apple, peach and melon notes. This wine has more body than a crisp young white, and the acid was a touch low but it matched well with the citrus sauce on the fish and was superb with the Butanese rice. The rice brought out an earthiness in the wine that the fish and citrus did not. It was an interesting combination.

Today is Easter and that makes it the unofficial opening of "summer rose'" season. There's a family gathering with a large ham so there will be a couple of rose's to try.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday Wine

The title here is somewhat of a play on words because this was really an excellent Friday wine that just happened to get opened on Good Friday.

This was my last bottle of the 1995 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva, Vigna del Sorbo. The color was beginning to turn on the edges from red to reddish umber (Sienna?) but the body of the wine was still dark red. The nose was bright, tart cherries, smoke, and some dried herbs. The taste was mouth filling with the cherries, tasting darker than the nose promised. The oak was totally integrated and gave the slight smokiness to the wine. The finish was long and ended with just a bit of the smoke on the back of the palate. This was like Chianti meets Burgundy and it was an outstanding wine. It lasted throughout the evening with only the least bit of fading. There is one more glass left for later today.

It rather overshadowed the small steak and the mushroom tortellini, not that I minded with this wine.

There was a reason that I opened this wine. There was an on-line sale and one of the loss leaders in this sale was the 2004 vintage of this wine at more than 50% off the price I've seen on it locally. The merchant is a reputable one that I've dealt with in the past and they were even offering free shipping. What more was there to do but order three bottles. I doubt that any of them will see their thirteenth birthday as the last 1995 bottle did.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mediterranean White

Always on the lookout for a bargain I couldn't pass on trying this $4 bottle of wine, Rene Barbier Mediterranean White from the Catalunya area of Spain. Clean, crisp, low alcohol and refreshing are words that come to mind. There's some citrus zest in the nose mixed with some herbs and flowers. The taste is light and dry, not heavy. This is a wine for a hot summer day. It's not vintage dated so it's probably a blend of several years. Grapes involved? The back label says indigenous grapes and in this part of Spain that probably means some Viura and whatever else was growing locally. This is not a wine to discuss, just one to drink.

Sunday was beautiful in the morning with not a cloud in the sky. Temperatures were in the 60 degree range by noon. As the day wore on a cold front with November colored clouds rolled in and we finished the day with thunderstorms and a lot of rain. Today's high is not expected to break 40 degrees and there is a chance of snow tonight. Welcome to spring in the great American Midwest.

I spent several hours grooming Scott yesterday, clipping, trimming, pulling out undercoat and making him look like a Gordon Setter again instead of an overgrown mass of black and tan hair. He spent the time on the grooming table watching the birds on the neighbor's bird feeder. The birds knew the front was coming in and they were seed loading to get through the next couple of days.

Dinner was simple, but good. I threw a whole chicken on the grill to roast. For the last few minutes of cooking time some asparagus joined the bird on the grill as did a couple of crusty rolls. No need to use the indoor oven to warm the bread when the grill is going. There was some prosciutto and provolone ravioli tossed in olive oil to finish the meal. It was a very Mediterranean meal to match the wine.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

1999 Torbreck RunRig

The computer is repaired and running smoothly, though it will be some time before all the programs and customizations are finished.

The evening meal last night was wonderful. There was a rack of lamb done on the grill with fresh herbs and wild mushroom and black truffle ravioli on the plate next to it. Throw in a small salad and some grilled asparagus and it was a great meal.

The wines weren't too shabby either. While the lamb was cooking we dove into a 1999 Kilikanoon Oracle from Australia. Dark color, lots of fruit p front but still with some tannin to provide a counterpoint. Perhaps a little low in acid. Nice long finish. Definitely a big wine that is at or just past it's peak.

Wine #2 was a J. Vidal Fleury 2004 Crozes-Hermitage. This wine reminded me of a perfectly colored Burgundy with its medium depth. The nose was all about dry earth and dry leather and a few herbs thrown in. Great acidity and lots of bright red plum flavors. A good and interesting wine.

The highlight of the evening was opened just as the lamb came off the grill. This was a 1999 Torbreck Run Rig shiraz from Australia. Let's not waste words or time here - this was a remarkable wine. It was inky dark in the glass and the nose was strong and powerful with fruit, earth, spices and meat. The first taste was almost gamey but there was black fruit and berries to compliment the meat. The acid was very good and the tannins just tied the entire package together. The tannins were firm, but not harsh in any way. The wine was perfectly balanced and over the course of the evening it just continued to improve. Too many times I've tasted Australian Shiraz wines and been disappointed by the over ripe fruit and high alcohol that seems to be their claim to fame. That wasn't the case with the RunRig, there was restraint to match the power and the winemaker knew enough to stop before the wine became a caricature of itself. Excellent wine.

Both the RunRig and the Vidal Fleury were very good with the lamb, but they were definitely two different experiences. Great evening and the computer is running again. Life is good.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring and Riesling and a Time Out

Spring is definitely here now. The weather patterns are changing and we are getting warmer days, thunder showers, cold fronts, high winds, and the color green. It doesn't mean that we won't still see some snow, but it's unlikely to accumulate and even if it does it won't stay long. Fine with me.

Yesterday evening there was enough tarragon above ground to harvest the first few leaves of the season. That's another great sign of spring, the herbs never taste better than they do on that first harvest.

There is an excellent article in the New York Times where the panel is tasting German Riesling. Eric Asimov and I think alike in one regard, Riesling is the perfect spring wine. It's light on the tongue, refreshing and tastes great with fresh herbs.

Last night was a 2007 Kinkead Ridge Riesling from southern Ohio. Those are Kinkead Riesling grapes pictured above. There is a whiff of kerosene at the start, then the nose is all about lime peel and white flowers. The taste is citrusy with enough underlying oiliness to give it some body while still retaining the guise of being delicate. It's a nice balancing act and they got it right with this wine.

There was a pan seared chicken breast finished in the oven while the pan was used to make a sauce. That sauce was chopped shallot and a touch of butter that was slowly sauteed. Chicken stock and a bit of the wine were added, along with a small dab of tarragon mustard and a sprinkling of dried tarragon. When the liquid was reduced to near syrup consistency we added heavy cream and white pepper. That was allowed to reduce and for the last minute some of the fresh tarragon was stirred in. The chicken sat on a bed of this sauce with a spoonful of the sauce poured over the top and it was garnished with the last of the fresh tarragon.

The wine and the chicken were the perfect spring pairing.

There are pictures of the completed dish, but the computer is gradually failing and it won't let me transfer them from the camera. That means that we are shutting down for the weekend while the operating system is repaired and the computer restored to pristine condition. The repair-person is a wine geek so other than a couple of small parts one can imagine what will go on during the final stages of repair. I believe it involves lamb and both a French and Australian syrah/shiraz based wine.

The wine list at the computer hospital is certainly much better than those at a human hospital.