Monday, June 29, 2009

Very Local Harvest

There are a number of herbs growing around front yard, some in the ground and others in pots, large to small. They are all doing extremely well so it it was time to do some serious harvesting.

Dinner turned out to be mostly Asian, with a touch of Italy and Austria thrown in for good measure. It was pan seared halibut with green sauce, Forbidden rice, and sliced tomatoes with basil, olive oil and grated cheese.

The sauce was almost a pesto of sort. Most of it was cilantro because it was bolting and going to seed, parsley and Thai basil. All this was pureed in the blender with some garlic, a knob of fresh ginger, some lime juice, a couple seeded habanero peppers, a little salt and some corn oil. This was not a mild sauce by any stretch of the imagination. It did more than make one sit up and take notice and should have come with a warning to use in small doses. What shows in the picture was about twice as much as was needed. It was still quite tasty and after removing some it to the side it paired quite well with the fish and the rice.

The wine was a 2007 Domane Wachau Terrassen Felderspiel Gruner Veltliner from Austria. The wine light, spicy and had just enough sweetness in it to counteract the heat coming from the green sauce. It was 12.5% alcohol but tasted a little less. It was good with the rice, great with the fish and sauce and good on its own.

Dessert was locally grown raspberries allowed to macerate in some sugar for six hours and then spooned onto lemon pound cake. The local market brought in the raspberries from a nearby Amish farmers group. When I picked them up in late morning they were just arriving from the farm so they were as fresh as one could get without picking and eating them immediately. There are some left for another serving or two, and that's a very good thing.

Overnight the weather system finally changed and this week some of the heat and humidity are going away. Last night I was able to shut off the air conditioning and open a few windows to get some fresh air through the house. And since there have been no more bear sightings life is good in this small corner of the universe.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2003 Foppiano Petite Sirah

Yesterday was basically a wasted day. Little got done other than grocery shopping and making sure the recliner didn't feel slighted. There was an attempt to watch two movies, and both attempts ended in a nap. Fortunately the movies are recorded and I can pick up on them later. Even breakfast and lunch were combined and consisted of some Kung Pao noodles in sauce all done in the microwave.

By the time evening came I was most definitely hungry and my personal battery which had been running on low all week was recharged with the two lengthy naps.

The motivation was for dinner came in the form of two lamb chops that were on sale earlier in the day. They were sprinkled with lemon pepper, rosemary and lemon thyme and grilled to barely medium. While the charcoal was heating we cooked up a risotto. Not having much on hand we pulled out some mixed, dried mushrooms, soaked them in water and used both the mushrooms and some of the broth for the risotto. There was one little shot of the Condrieu from a couple of nights ago and it went into the mixture as well. Chicken stock, a few fresh herbs and grated Asiago cheese finished off the dish.

The wine was a 2003 Foppiano Petite Sirah from the Russian River Valley near Sonoma in California. Foppiano has always been my go-to producer for Petite Sirah. No one does it as consistently as these folks, and the 2003 was no exception. Dark purple in the glass the nose was all about dark berries, a very dark plum, a little cinnamon and a little chocolate powder. All those flavors were there and a little black pepper was thrown into the mix. It was a mouthful. Petite Sirah is never a soft wine and the tannins here were prominent, but they were soft and thoroughly integrated from start to finish. The wine was 14.5% alcohol, but was so balanced that it tasted like less.

With the meal it was hard to pick a favorite, lamb and wine or risotto and wine. The slight gaminess in the lamb picked up black pepper and the chocolate in the wine while the mushrooms in the risotto played with the fruit. In the end it made no difference, both were great. I love a wine that matches well and matches differently with two or more components of a meal and this wine did that in spades. As I've said before, I don't score wines because I dislike that idea, but I will score the experience of this meal and the way the wine and food matched up with each other. It was a 98.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Morning After

Nasty storms rolled through this area last night and early this morning. Ten miles south of us the rainfall totaled 5.75 inches over night. We received about three inches here. The bear is no doubt wet and grumpy.

The cloud is from this morning and it promises more rain for today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Hot and steamy weather continues here and there was a black bear sighting about 300 yards from the Domaine Two Dogs. There hasn't been a bear in this area in 50 or 60 years so I suppose one could say that we are overdue. Needless to say Scott's early morning, just at dawn, walks are somewhat restricted for the time being.

Work has also been a "bear" lately and has precluded doing much of anything in the evening during the week. Today I decided enough was enough and came home in time to fix a decent meal and open a good bottle of wine. The meal was a chicken breast seasoned with lemon pepper and then pan seared and roasted. There was a white wine and chicken stock sauce and some carrots and shallots sauteed and steamed with butter and fresh tarragon.

The wine was a rare treat, a 2006 Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu, Les Terrasses de l'Empire. The nose was not quite ripe peaches, some honeysuckle and a good dash of pineapple As it warmed in the glass the pineapple receded a bit and was replaced by some herbs and a chalky mineral aroma. There seemed to be a hint of thyme in the wine.

The taste was peaches and apricots with a dash of the pineapple and the weight of the wine was anything but light. There was great acidity and the most amazing thing was that just before the finish there was some sweetness. I thought the wine was going to finish sweet, but just as it was about to be sweet the acid kicked back in and the wine finished quite dry. I looked for this several more times and it was there every time I looked. I liked that quite a bit. There was a wonderful length to the finish. This was an extraordinary white wine. Thank heaven there is a second bottle.

The chicken and the wine were fine together, but the carrots and shallots paired with this wine like Adam paired with Eve. I could have eaten a second serving of those veggies with this wine.

A good evening and a super wine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A 2008 Rose'

The weekend finished yesterday with a good party for Father's Day and a 90th birthday celebration for my step mother. Since the menu was primarily hamburgers and hot dogs, and since the temperatures were near 90 degrees again, it was time for more rose'.

This time it was a 2008 Domaine de la Petite Cassagne from the Costieres de Nimes region of southern France. Unlike the salmon and copper color of Saturday's rose' this one was the color of cranberry juice. The taste was mostly strawberries with some gravelly underpinnings. There was also a pleasing vegetative or herby character to this wine and after a brief discussion and short session of brainstorming by several of us we finally decided there was sweet basil in this wine. Strange, but it was there.

There was good acidity and a nice, but short, finish with just a tiny hint of sweetness at the very end. Nice effort, a good wine, but I preferred the Saturday wine discussed below because I liked the bone dry finish on that wine. This was another of the $9 rose's from the local market and checked in at 13.5% alcohol.

There was a surprise disadvantage to the color because there were some young children present. A three year old picked up my glass and took a sip of the wine (not something I recommend for several years) after calling it pretty. There was a big smile on his face even though he only got one sip. I'm sure he slept well last night, but then again that probably had as much to do with playing hard as it did with his sip of wine.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Domaine du Poujol

Even though the temperatures warmed up again yesterday the humidity and summer smog stayed away and that made for a beautiful evening.

Dinner was simple. There was a small, crusty loaf of fresh bread, a dish of coleslaw with a tart dressing and oysters from the grill. The oysters were laid out on the grill over the coals and removed just as they popped open. There was freshly ground lemon pepper scattered over a few of them and the rest were topped with a compound butter consisting of butter, lemon juice and chopped fresh dill. The oysters were clean, briny, and wonderfully fresh. As the meal went on the escaped juices were soaked up by the crusty bread and the coleslaw served as a luxurious counterpoint with it's crisp acids.

The wine was a 2007 Domaine du Poujols Rose, a wine from the Coteaux du Languedoc region of southern France. Lately the roses in the local wine market seem to be vivid pink and red, but this wine was definitely copper colored with just a hint of pink. We put a slight chill on it, but not enough to deaden the taste.

This wine was about cherry juice, bright, red cherry juice. There may have been a hint or two of strawberry, but it was definitely a night for the cherries to sing out. There was great acidity and just a tiny bit of tannin and the wine was totally dry. With the oysters it provided a touch of fruit and highlights of metal. Not a classic match but one that went down very easy. At 12.5% alcohol and only $9 it was the perfect wine for a warm night.

The vineyard has an unusual legend around it. In 1787 Thomas Jefferson visited the area around Montpellier and proclaimed the wine of Poujols as among the best he tasted in France. No claim is made that this is the same wine, but it's certainly a good story as we approach the U.S. Independence Day. On the back label of the bottle they quote Jefferson, "Good wine is a necessity of life for me."

I concur.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steak and Red Wine

It's been hot, humid, wet and miserable here for the last several days, and in weather like that it's little fun to cook. After four days of avoiding cooking much I lit the grill last night and threw on a bone in rib steak and a couple ears of fresh corn. Once they were cooked we jumped back inside to eat in air conditioned comfort.

The steak called for a red wine, but nothing very heavy. Kinkead Ridge had the perfect wine for the evening with their 2006 Revelation red wine. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and checks in at a modest 12.8% alcohol.

Lots of dark cherries and oak in the nose with some underlying dirt. The taste was strong on the black cherry side but there were a few currants tossed in for good measure. The wine had great acidity and wonderful soft tannins, lots of them. I love this kind of tannin because it gives a nice structure to the wine while still cleaning the palate for the next sip. There was a hollow spot in the wine just before the finish, but that was just a minor distraction. An immanently drinkable red wine for the summer.

Today is seafood Saturday. We went to the local market a little later than normal this morning because they were grilling salmon outdoors and then selling it as sandwiches. There was a good slab of Alaskan salmon, a locally made soft bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a chipotle barbecue sauce to top everything. Throw in a bottle of chilled water and for $6.50 you won't find a better lunch.

We also hit the seafood counter and came home with a baker's dozen plus one of fresh oysters that will go on the grill tonight. The wine is still in the deciding stage.

The Saturday wine tasting was just starting at the market so we also purchased a glass of 2007 Belle Glos Meiomi Sonoma Coast pinot noir, from the good folks at Caymus. Fully ripe, tasting of alcohol and dense plums and almost completely closed up, it seemed more like a Syrah to me. Disappointing wine.

The second photo is just because the marigolds on the front step are blooming and I needed a picture of them before they got between Scott and a squirrel.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chicken and Corn

Simple meal last night that was nothing more than chicken and corn, a small salad and two good glasses of wine.

The chicken was a bone in, skin on, breast half. We sauteed a chopped strip of bacon, then mixed that with some chopped fresh basil and some grate Asiago cheese. That mixture was stuffed under the skin of the chicken. We tossed on a little salt and pepper and put the whole thing on the grill over medium heat, popped on the grill lid, and let it grill bake until it golden brown and done. The corn was par boiled inside and then thrown on the grill for the last few minutes of cooking / baking. Very good meal.

The wine was a 2007 Gianfranco Allesandrio Dolcetto D'Alba which has been discussed here more than a couple of times. For $14 it is difficult to beat. Lots of forward fruit and acid with just the right amount of tannin to balance everything out.

Dessert was store bought chocolate almond biscotti, dipped in the last glass of wine.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Winners and Losers

Tried two wines last night to get the weekend off to a good start. One was very good and the other no so good, and the not so good one was the one highly recommended by one of the local wine stores.

The not so good wine was a 2005 Two Princes Riesling, an entry level wine from Schloss Wallhausen from the Nahe region of Germany. There was a little bit of lemon in the nose along with some not quite ripe apricots. Those were also the predominant tastes, but the wine offered little else. It seemed low in acid, a little too sweet and flabby. There was no hint of any sense of minerality to the wine and it left an overly sweet taste on the finish. There are much better Rieslings for $11 in the market. Fortunately this was a buy one and try it type of wine before committing to even a second bottle. That was the best part of the wine - the fact that there won't be a second bottle.

There was a steak to grill since the rain stopped earlier in the day and the Riesling was not a steak wine so we opened a 2005 Enzo Boglietti Langhe Nebbiolo. We poured part of it into a decanter and put a little in the glass for an immediate taste. Strong nose of red cherries, earth, a tiny touch of leather and some cedar. The wine was very closed but after a couple of minutes it began to bloom and open up.

Just after taking the steak off the grill to rest for a couple of minutes we finally tasted the wine. There were cherries that were darker than the those in the nose, sweet red plums, great acidity and ample tannin. The earth smell remained and it only added to the wine. The tannins were gripping, but not harsh and they certainly cleaned the palate.

With the steak it was almost perfect. The body was medium here so it opened up much quicker than the Barbaresco from a few nights ago. Both this wine and the Barbaresco were from the 2005 vintage, but this wine was much more approachable now. By the end of the second glass it was very good. At $20 it was a small bargain, but at $11 the Riesling was over priced.

The picture is two blooms on a volunteer lily at the side of the house. The photo was taken last night, but late this morning the lily became a fatality as it got between Scott and a fleeing squirrel. A second lily survived but is not yet blooming.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barbaresco and More

It's almost impossible to beat the wines of the Produttori del Barbaresco for value in northern Italian wine and last night's 2005 basic Barbaresco was no exception.

Half of the bottle got about an hour in a decanter, and that wasn't nearly enough, but the wine was still delicious. The nose was cherries and and red fruits along with some herbs, tar and even a little black coffee. There was some earth in the nose as well.

The taste was just about the same, minus the coffee which seemed to dissipate quickly. The acid was wonderful and the tannins grabbed hold of the sides of my tongue and held on for awhile. An hour later the wine was finally softening and showing much more fruit.

This is very young, but very promising. I bought several bottles and just wanted to taste one before putting the others away to mature for a couple of years or more.

Dinner was pan roasted chicken thighs and some pasta with a fresh sage and butter sauce. Good food and an even better wine.

There is a new local winery, La Vigna, and after two years on their mailing list I finally received notice that they are releasing their first wines. The wines are a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2008 Petit Manseng, a variety I have never tasted. Both are estate grown and bottled. We will be off to the winery this weekend or next to pick up some of each.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Nothing exciting or noteworthy going on so I thought I would answer an e-mail question Dave G. regarding the lack of scores for wines on this site.

Simple answer to a very length worthy topic: I don't find scores particularly useful though they can be a convenient shorthand.

On the 100 point scale most scores fall between 80 and 95 with an occasional score above 95. In essence that makes it a 20 point scale and that defeats the purpose of using 100 points. I'm also more interested in describing how the wine tastes and smells and how it goes with food that I am eating. 90% of what I drink is with food and for that remaining 10% I'm imagining what food would go with it when I'm tasting the wine.

Bottom line for me is that I just hate the thought of grading everything in my life. Wines are like kids and dogs, some are brilliant and some less so, but that doesn't mean I don't love them all. Each has its own place in the world.

Photo is a geranium on the front step.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Let's Start with Dessert

We're getting toward the end of the local strawberry season so they are coming at us fast and furious. It's a nice problem to have.

Tonight's meal ended with the above picture, two slices of pound cake topped with macerated strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Simple, satisfying and delicious.

Dessert was preceded by a pan seared swordfish steak and some pan roasted asparagus topped by the last of the pheasant eggs.

The swordfish was marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh rosemary, two cloves of crushed garlic and a good dose of red pepper flakes. It was seared in a pan and then finished in a hot oven. A dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon and it was ready to eat.

The asparagus was roasted in butter and topped with a poached pheasant egg. When the yolk is broken it makes a perfect sauce for the earthy asparagus.

Scott was busy recovering from the near fatality of a squirrel earlier in the day but he was more than willing to scarf down the swordfish skin.

The wine was our last bottle of the 2007 Kincaid Ridge white Revelation. From past experience I knew that the wine had a slightly sweet finish to it so we added extra garlic and red pepper flakes to the fish marinade to balance things out. The wine smelled of melons and figs mostly. There is good acid and nice balance, but just a bit of sweetness. It takes well to a chill.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

1999 Clos Des Papes

Yesterday our temperatures reached 90 degrees for the first time this year. Today we were lucky to break 60 degrees, finally managing to get to 62. We went from chilled white wine and cold beer weather to a red wine night in less than 24 hours.

Instead of the planned left over roast chicken from Sunday we fired up the grill and cooked bone in rib steaks. Instead of a cheap white wine with too much chill on it or a gin and tonic we went to a Chateauneuf de Pape, a red wine that is any thing but subtle.

I regularly read on line wine review sites that keep me up to date with others' opinions on some of the older wines I have in the cellar. One of those was a lone bottle of 1999 Clos De Papes. The last few reviews were four to one that this wine had reached its peak and had declined. The fourth review was a rave review of this particular wine. I went with the four instead of the one and pulled the cork. The four were wrong.

The color was more like a pinot noir, but the nose was like sitting in a brand new car with full leather interior and eating a bowl of strawberries and cherries with a few pomegranate seeds thrown in for crunch while driving with the windows down and smelling fresh earth after a light rain. (Why do I feel like I should apologize to Gary Vaynerchuk here?) Throw in a cinnamon stick and a couple allspice berries and it was the quintessential smell of a good Chateauneuf de Pape.

The taste was full of the strawberries and cherries and they were fully ripe, but just at the moment when those sweet tastes were about to become too much the tannin and acid kicked in and totally cleaned the palate. The finish was long, smooth and dry.

Along with the steak there was some butter simmered asparagus and some wild mushroom and black truffle ravioli (store bought). All those foods did was pick up on the earthiness in the wine and accentuate the fruit.

There is just a little less than half of the wine left and the vacuum seal should go in so that we can see if the second day on the wine lives up to the first. On the other hand the evening is young and the wine is much more than delicious, and it is a red wine night. I sense a late morning coming tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pasta with Sage and a Wine Lesson

After a sweltering day with 90 degree temperatures and humidity to match the day is ending in a much better manner.

I remember reading somewhere / sometime about a simple pasta dish primarily using fresh sage, butter, and Pecorino cheese as its sauce. Not being able to find the recipe we improvised and came up with a winner. The pasta was pappardelle, a very wide egg noodle. The sauce was a tablespoon of melted butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Those two were warmed together until the butter was melted and then we stirred in two tablespoons of chopped fresh sage and a few leaves of chopped parsley. The pasta and sauce were tossed together and we added cracked black pepper, a wee bit of salt and about two tablespoons of grated Pecorino cheese. The results are pictured above. Simple, rich and delicious are three words that come to mind.

The wine was the last two glasses of the 2006 Kincaid Ridge Viognier Roussanne reviewed in the post below. As a general rule I find that white wines don't taste better after two days, even if they are kept cool and under vacuum. In this case the general rule failed because this wine was better after breathing for two days. The edges came together and the wine was perfectly balanced. The first glass was a little cool so judgment was reserved, but the second glass had come to cool, room temperature and it was the best glass from the bottle.

When we do the comparison this fall between the 2006 and 2008 vintages I will read this note and let those two wines breathe a little before tasting.

Good meal and a very good wine.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The "Eat Local" meal was more than a success, it was fun and interesting at the same time. Everything on the menu was grown or produced locally here in southwest Ohio with the only exceptions being a little lemon juice, sugar, some olive oil and the salt and pepper.

The salad was locally grown lettuces dressed with homemade chive blossom vinegar and olive oil; tart and flavorful and tasting like spring. The main course was a whole free range chicken roasted over indirect heat on the grill. A mixture of fresh sage, lemon thyme and rosemary was chopped, mixed with some local butter and shoved under the skin and in the cavity. The lemon juice made an appearance here. It smelled wonderful while it was cooking and it piqued the interest of a couple of the neighbors.

There was also the last of the locally grown asparagus. The stalks were sliced into thirds and stir fried in a small amount of butter in a cast iron skillet. The only liquid was from the butter or asparagus itself. This also marked the appearance of the pheasant eggs discussed a couple of posts below. Two of the eggs were gently poached, then cooled in water. They were trimmed to a nice round shape then dropped back into hot water until warmed, then dried and laid on top of the asparagus. A little lemon juice finished the dish. The egg yolk was a bright, vivid orange. The taste was a little stronger than a chicken egg, but it was perfect with the asparagus and the size of the egg was perfect for the serving portion. A chicken egg would have overwhelmed the dish. We both agreed that this was the highpoint of the meal.

The remaining pheasant eggs were used to make a creme Anglaise with local milk and cream. One more outside ingredient popped up here in the form of a couple drops of almond oil. The sauce was cooled and then served over locally grown strawberries. The strawberries were distinct for their depth of flavor and color. Most of what shows up here as strawberries are grown in California and can best be described as strawberries on steroids. They are huge and when one slices into them the centers are white. What taste one gets from them is usually in the outer edges. The local berries were perfectly ripened and red from the outside to the center. They were sweet and full flavored and the acid in them wasn't harsh. They needed no sweetening.

The wine was local also. Having tasted the 2008 Kincaid Ridge Viognier Roussanne last Monday we broke out a bottle of the 2006 vintage of the same wine. The aroma reminded me of a good Condrieu with it's oiliness and slight musk overtones. The taste was the bright lemon and melon mix of Viognier with body and pear added by the Roussanne. The wine did taste slightly green and not nearly as ripe as the 2008 version, but I loved the acid in the wine with the richness of the chicken and pheasant egg. This wine is ready to drink and I will move my remaining two bottles up to the front of the cellar. I'll wait until fall and open one of them along side the 2008 version for a good comparison.

Good meal.