Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2005

Sometimes there are silver linings in dark clouds, in this case the sour economy being that dark cloud.

With the average price of a bottle of wine sold in the U.S. falling a number of wine distributors seem to be in need of immediate cash flow. Bargains are showing up. Case in point is Grosset Rieslings from Australia. They have been difficult to find in this area and when they did appear they were very expensive.

Imagine my surprise during a recent walk through at one of the stores I frequent when I spied several cases off the Grosset Watervale Riesling from 2006 at a very nice price ($14). The story from the retailer was 'the old cash flow problem' with the distributor. While putting three bottles in a case I noticed that some of them were from the 2005 vintage. The price was the same. Three of each came home with me at that price.

Last night there was some pan seared halibut with an orange juice and ginger reduction sauce with just a little Thai red chili paste added for some heat. I opened a bottle of the 2005 vintage.

The first thing out of the glass was fruit. There was lime and other citrus on the nose and then wisps of kerosene added their dimension to the wine. The taste was bone dry with the lime nicely balanced by tart acid and a jolt of what can best be called raindrops on dry slate. There was nothing shy about this wine. It stood up to the heat in the sauce and the acid cut the richness of the fish. At the very end there was a subtle hint of grapefruit to refresh the palate for the next sip. This was a delicious wine and would be very good at it's original $30 price, but at $14 I wish I had bought more.

Other Australian wines that made up the case plus three bottles that came home with me, including some reds from Cullen Winery in Western Australia, a lone bottle of Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, a Grosset Gaia from the 1998 vintage and a couple bottles of Clonakilla reds from the Canberra area.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Wee Dram at Sunset and a Personal Note

The last two days have been both fascinating and sad with the wake, funeral and burial of Edward (Teddy) Kennedy. As much as I find most television to be a waste of time it is events like this that prove its worth. The coverage has been fascinating.

I vividly remember being glued to the television in 1963 after John Kennedy was assassinated, and I still have memories of his funeral. I also remember watching the coverage of the assassination and funeral of his brother Robert in 1968. This is why I felt compelled to watch the coverage of Teddy's services over the last two days.

As 'Taps' was being played in the late dusk of Washington today I took the above photo of a glass of 1992 Oban Distiller's Edition Scottish whisky. It wasn't Irish whisky, but since the family fortune came from importing Scottish whisky into the U.S. that made Scottish whisky the final drink of choice for the evening.

One of my most vivid memories of the John Kennedy saga was a memorial concert shortly after his burial. It was my introduction to Mahler's Second Symphony, the Resurrection. There's a last Oban in my hands now and Mahler's #2 with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic is playing in the background. This was a life well lived.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Great weather this weekend and despite the cool temperatures their is an abundance of homegrown, heirloom tomatoes. Several folks donated the above "stash" and they were picked either yesterday afternoon or in the case of the three on the right picked this morning. There is still basil growing in the garden and plenty of olive oil so tonight's menu will include all three in some form.

I'm going to look at this photo with culinary lust this coming January when the supermarket tomatoes taste like cardboard.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vegetarian Night

Home late last night and only needed a very light snack instead of a meal. There were some roasted, golden beets in the refrigerator so they were sliced and plated on top of some Romaine lettuce. After they warmed up slightly there was a light dressing of chive blossom vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt. Perfect.

There was one glass left of the Cannonau di Sardegna discussed below. The fruit was a little diminished but still enough to contrast with the earthiness in the beets. Very good little wine for $15.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sardegna Sunday

No way does August in Ohio get better than yesterday - sunny skies and a high temperature of 69 degrees. That's just about perfect.

Dinner was simple but delicious. There was a special on top round steak at the market so we fixed an Italian variation of London Broil. The steak was smeared with balsamic vinegar and a mixture of finely ground pepper with a little salt added. It marinated for most of the day in the refrigerator. When it hit the grill both sides were seared for two minutes and then it was moved off the heat and the lid placed on the grill. The meat continued to cook for another six to eight minutes, rested for a few more minutes after coming off the grill, was thinly sliced and dressed with a touch of olive oil and some lemon juice.

The pasta was fresh fettucine and the sauce was butter and olive oil melted together. Some fresh basil and oregano was tossed in at the last minute and some Pecorino Romano cheese grated over the top. When it was plated a scattering of red pepper flakes was added.

The wine was a new one for me, a 2005 Sella and Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva. Cannonau is the Italian name for Grenache but this was unlike a southern Rhone or a Spanish Grenache that can be intensely fruit drive. In the glass the wine was more the color and depth of burgundy or a nebbiolo. There was dry fruit and red berries in the nose, along with earth and dry leather. The fruit component in the taste was the berries and perhaps a sweet cherry, but about half way through the leather and earth jumped out on the side of the tongue. There was good acid, moderate tannin and a little bit of sweet fruit that suddenly dried at the end. It was interesting and delicious and it delicious with the food.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Olive Oil

Things are bad enough here with wine stashed just about everywhere it can be stored, but now extra virgin olive oils seem to be accumulating as well. Pictured above are five that are used constantly. From the left, Zoe is a soft fruity Spanish oil that is relatively inexpensive and is a good every day oil

Next to Zoe is a 2008 harvest Sogno Toscano (Tuscan Dream). This oil is fruity up front but has a bite and bitterness in the finish. It's good in salad dressings and on pasta.

In the middle is the last little bit of a 2007 pressing of Marques de Valdueza. This Spanish oil is from four different types of olives, Arbequina, Hojiblanca, Morisca and Picual. It's superb over pasta and as a simple dip for crusty bread. There's a 2008 pressing of this oil in the cupboard also.

Next in line is a single varietal oil from the California Olive Ranch. It's 100% Arbequina oil. Light, fruity, iridescent green and tasty. There are a couple of bottles of the 2009 November pressing on order and they should be here in early December.

On the right is a Vera Jane 2008 pressing oil from Tuscany. This is a store brand for Dorothy Lane Markets. Green and fruity with the typical Tuscan kick of pepper and bitterness at the end.

Each is a little different and each is quite good. Of course there are other oils in the house as well, a small bottle of white truffle oil in the refrigerator, grape seed oil for sauteeing, expeller pressed canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil, walnut oil and peanut oil. Don't get me started on the vinegars!

Addictions can be wonderful things, expensive sometimes, but always wonderful.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

2006 Kinkead Ridge Viognier Roussanne

If this is global warming I'll have another glass, please!

August is my least favorite month of the year; it's hot, it's humid, the days are long and the nights are shorter, and it's usually a pain. Not so this year and definitely not so today. The temperature only reached 75 degrees and there has been a cool breeze for the entire day. It's more like mid to late October than mid August.

Dinner tonight was very close to perfect and the wine was more than its equal. The wine was a Kinkead Ridge Viognier (63%) - Roussanne (37%) from the 2006 vintage. Dinner was a pan seared swordfish steak marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, fresh rosemary, red pepper flakes, and a little pepper. The real star of the meal was the farro Nicoise that accompanied the fish.

This was the Italian grain, farro with tuna, olives, just picked cherry tomatoes, haricot verts, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, lemon zest, olive oil and chopped hard boiled eggs. It was served in barely poached leaves of Belgian endive. Calling it full flavored would be an understatement. Calling it delicious would not.

The wine now has two years bottle age on it and I doubt that it is possible for it to get any better. There was the distinctive oiliness of the Viognier and the robustness of the Roussanne playing off each other. Fruit, green grapes, melon, a little fig and a few other flavors all intermingled here. They were balanced by wonderful acid. There were a number of ingredients in the farro dish and each bite was a little different depending on what was on the fork. The wine tasted tart and fresh with the tuna, refined and elegant with the eggs and farro and a little understated with the beans and olives.

Kinkead Ridge does an excellent job with all their wines, but this particular wine from this particular vintage may be their best to date. There are two bottles left in the cellar, and that may be the best news of all.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Meranda-Nixon Follow-up

There's an interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about land owners in the former tobacco belt moving on to other crops. The lead of the article is posted here....

Seth Meranda graduated from Ohio State University in 1994 and planned to spend the rest of his life as the fifth generation running the family tobacco farm in Brown County, Ohio.

But amid falling demand and cheap competition from abroad, Mr. Meranda began to lose his taste for the golden leaf. When the federal government ended tobacco subsidies in 2004, he opted for a lump-sum payment of $126,000 in a program to help tobacco growers transition to the free market.

He bet it all on a new vineyard and wine-making business, the Meranda-Nixon Winery, which he opened on the site ...

Sadly, the rest of the article is on the premium portion of the Jourrnal site. For a brief review of the Meranda Nixon Cabernet from earlier this week see the post below.

And here's a link to the full article if you are a premium subscriber.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It was hot last night but since there was a small steak coming off the grill I still wanted a red wine.

I opted for the 2006 Meranda-Nixon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This is another local wine from the Ohio River Valley.

The wine was purple in the glass, especially around the rim, and smelled of fresh crushed grapes and red cherries. The acid was good but the tannins were low. It was a medium to light Cabernet with great fruit appeal, almost a Beaujolais style wine. The were a few veggies lurking in the wine as well.

All in all it was quite drinkable and a worthwhile effort. There's one more bottle left and I'll hold onto it for another year or so and try it then.

It matched well with the steak and a little fresh corn, shallot and orange pepper side dish.

Monday, August 17, 2009

2005 Mazzocco Home Vineyard

Good birthday party for a wine drinking friend yesterday evening. There were two very nice wines. Knowing the honoree likes big wines my contribution to the party was a 2005 Mazzocco Vineyards, Home Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel with a total production of 400 cases. It checked in at 15.1% alcohol.

There was solid peppery berry fruit in the nose with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. A dense core of blackberries was foremost in the taste. There was depth to the taste, but not too much. There was good acid, some prickly tannin and a tremendous balance that totally masked its high alcoholic content. There is a lightness and freshness to Dry Creek Zinfandels and that carried through in this wine. It was not overbearing nor was it overly jammy. It was flat out delicious.

The second wine was a 2002 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. The nose was like sticking your head in a barrel, it was overt and unapologetic smell of oak and little else. It took a few minutes but some dense, dark plum fruit began to show itself. The plums were there in the taste along with dark cherries. The structure on this wine was huge, big deep flavors of fruit, good acid and wave after wave of oak. After an hour it was still like licking a tree. There's a chance that this wine will settle down after a few more years in the bottle, but it just seemed over oaked to me. It needs a hearty beef stew with strong flavors and not summer picnic fare from the grill.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Croque Monsiuer

I've been lightly browsing through Julia Child's books since seeing the new movie, Julie and Julia, and discovered some recipes and ideas forgotten through the years. After a long, Canada goose filled and chasing walk with Scott this morning we skipped breakfast in favor of lunch. Up popped Julia.

Croque Monsieur is really a glorified, grilled, ham and cheese sandwich. We buttered two slices of bread and layered thin slices of mozzarella on top of one, added a layer of prosciutto, and another of cheese before topping with the second slice of bread. Off came the crusts and the then the sandwich was pressed together between a plate and a board. It then was sauteed in butter on both sides until the bread was crisp and crunchy and the mozzarella thoroughly melted into the ham. Two slices of tomato, a few cornichons and a pickled onion finished the plate.

There was a small glass of the white burgundy from below left over, but it did not fare well over night. There was also a glass of Chehalem 2006 reserve dry Riesling (Oregon) left in a bottle, and that paired great with the sandwich. Great acid and lemony taste cut through the richness of the cheese and ham. Good match - and even the cornichons didn't kill the Riesling.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

2005 White Burgundy, Grey Sole & Julia Child

Busy week at work and there was little to no cooking time, and the alcohol mainly took the form of Scottish whisky. That changed tonight.

We saw a matinee of the movie Julie and Julia and decided to do a Julia Child meal. We went with Julia's first meal after arriving in France for the first time, sole Meuniere with a white wine. While Julia and her husband Paul opted for a Sancerre, I opted for the last of my entry level white burgundies, in this case a 2005 Verget Macon-Vergisson La Roche.

The market was running a sale on fresh grey sole (witch or left hand flounder) and we brought a large one home, scaled and cleaned, but still whole.
Out came the super sized skillet to handle the chore.

We coated the fish with a dusting of flour and then quickly sauteed it on both sides in a mixture of grape seed oil and butter. It then went onto a sheet pan and into a moderately hot oven for five minutes. While the fish was in the oven we sauteed some mushrooms in the skillet, added some white wine and lemon juice and reduced the liquid by a little more than half. We finished the sauce with butter and at the last minute added a dash of lemon zest, chopped tarragon, chopped chives and some parsley. There was some fresh pasta that was plated next to the fish and we lopped off the head and removed the skin, plated the fish and sauced the plate with the contents from the skillet. The result is pictured below.

It was briny and bright and the lemon added some highlights and the mushrooms gave it some depth.

The wine was at or just past its peak. The color was moving to gold from yellow and green, but there was still fruit, acid and oak in almost perfect balance and the wine basically did an exotic tango with the fish when tasted together. They made a very passionate couple. This was the last bottle of this particular wine, and while it may have just been past its peak it was the perfect foil on this evening.

As for the movie, the highest compliment I can pay is to say that after three or four minutes Meryl Streep ceased to an actress and became Julia Child. It was two hours of pure fun.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Schloss Gobelsburg GV

After a very cool July and early August summer made its presence felt yesterday. The temperature climbed to 90 and the humidity did likewise.

After the overkill with the steak on Saturday we dialed things back a little on Sunday. Dinner was a whole chicken on the grill. It was brined for about six hours and then air dried in the fridge. We made a mixture of freshly grated ginger, grated lemon peel and butter and rubbed all that under the skin while it dried. When the grill was ready the coals were moved to the side and the bird went into the middle. We threw on the lid and roasted the bird over the indirect heat.

We opted for a 2006 Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Steinsetz from Austria. We put a slight chill on it. The nose was all about restrained fruit and minerals, almost a wet rock aroma. The fruit was a little more prominent on the tongue and there was definitely a ripe, but tart green grape taste to the wine. The minerals were still there and were strong. Great acid held the whole thing together. The wine was 13% alcohol so it finished quite dry. With the lemon peel and ginger that worked its way into the chicken meat the wine was at its best. For a hot day it was exactly what was needed, tart and refreshing.

It was a two dessert meal. A Saturday trip to the market resulted in fresh, white peaches and fresh California mission figs coming home with me.

For the first dessert we cut the figs in half and basted the surface with a little lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. They went on the grill with the cut side down. After a couple of minutes we flipped them over and added a large dollop of fresh goat cheese to the center of each. We popped the lid back on the grill and let the cheese melt into the figs. Delicious. The peaches were peeled and cut into slices, and the slices were frozen. After dinner they went into the food processor with some lemon juice, sugar and an ounce of the Gruner Veltliner. The mixture was pureed into a sorbet and the put back in the freezer to set up a little. Excellent, and there is more for the next couple of days.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Red Meat / Red Wine

Some times a coupon can be a mixed blessing. The local market was kind enough to send a coupon for 15% off the price of one steak. If one is going to get 15% off one might as well take advantage of the situation. Today we purchased a multi-person porterhouse steak, all 2.1 pounds of it. It was more like purchasing a small cow.

We fired up the grill this evening, seasoned the steak with a little pepper blend and tossed it on the grill for four minutes, flipped it over and grilled it for four minutes longer. We then moved it off the direct heat to the other side of the grill and closed the lid to let it bake for an additional ten minutes. Since the steak was overkill to begin with we threw caution to the wind and fried some potatoes in duck fat as a side dish. We added a few slices of yellow tomato, a small, just picked cherry tomato and some fresh basil.

After the photo below was taken we sliced the meat off the bone and cut it into medium rare slices, and had enough left for another meal.

The wine of choice was another bottle of Mazzocco Zinfandel, this time a 2005 bottling. This follows on the heels of a 2001 and a 2003 that were enjoyed over the last couple of weeks. This was the weakest of the three wines, still good, but not on a par with the other two vintages. This wine had all the elements the other two had, good brambly fruit, nice acid, medium body and moderate alcohol. It also had a slightly green taste to it, as though the grapes weren't perfectly ripe. Even though it was the youngest of the three I can't attribute this to age. It simply contained some grapes that weren't quite as ripe.

It made little difference tonight because the steak was wonderful and the potatoes bordered on decadent and the wine was very good with both of them.

Scott got some bits and pieces in his dog food, and we also added a little of the reserved duck fat to his bowl.

This is a very happy household this evening, and a very well fed one also. I sense a long, walk for Scott and I tomorrow to work some of this off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

La Braccesca

Maybe this should be entitled the forgotten wine. Forgotten primarily because I've had this bottle for several years and for some reason it never made the inventory list. The wine is La Braccesca 2001 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. This is the Montepulciano outpost of the Antinori family.

Vino Nobile is often like the red headed step child of Tuscany since Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino get 98% of the publicity and recognition. Too bad because this was a nice wine.

It was very earthy in the nose with hints of fruit peeking out from the dust and herbs. With a little breathing the cherry fruit of sangiovese came out in the taste to balance out the more earthy elements from the nose. The acid was fine and the oak played a supporting role, noticeable but not the point of the wine. There was a soft, tannic grip on the side of the tongue and a good burst of fruit at the very end on the back of the tongue. The wine finished with surprising length. 2001 was a very good vintage in Tuscany and this wine was a good representative of that vintage.

There was a small salad of tomatoes and cheese and a pan seared and oven finished beef fillet. While the beef rested we tossed some re hydrated porcini mushroom and shallots into the skillet, then a little wine, a tiny bit of Dijon mustard, some of the mushroom soaking liquid and small amount of beef stock. When all that reduced we finished the sauce with some Icelandic butter.

It was the perfect way to end a wet, miserable day. It started raining about 5:30 this morning and by the time the last of the showers cleared out late this afternoon we received nearly four inches of rain. That's more than the average rainfall for the entire month of August in this area, and all this coming off a wet and cool July. July was the second coolest on record. Hearty, red wine in July and August in this area is a treat, and one that I love.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zinfandel Weekend

It was somewhat unexpected but it turned into a Zinfandel weekend with two different Zins being consumed.

Saturday was very much a long workday to finish the first half of the fiscal year, but some friends were kind enough to say, "just come over for dinner when you're done." It was an invitation we couldn't turn down.

The wine that made the journey was a 2003 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel. There was chicken and pasta for dinner after some mushrooms tarts for starters. We opened the Zin early and it tasted smelled exactly like it should, brambly fruit, a few blackberries, and a tiny hint of oak. The taste was very much the same with the blackberries tasting great and some oak and tannin adding balance to the wine. This wasn't a wine to blow anyone away, but it was a wine that tasted very good with the appetizer and the entree. To me this is where Zinfandel shines. I'm not a huge fan of the highly extracted and highly alcoholic wines that seem currently in fashion. It was just well made and tasty.

It wound up the evening playing second fiddle to a 1999 Clos des Pape Chateauneuf de Pape. This wine was full of fruit and barnyard funk. There was definitely some brettanomyces in the wine, but it was at a level that made it appealing rather than appalling. Strawberries and red currants were the primary taste, and the balance and finish were incredible. This was the second bottle of this wine that I had the pleasure of drinking recently and both were first rate.

Today was cleaning and errand day since none of that got done on Saturday. We ended the evening with a ribeye steak on the grill and a baked potato with sour cream and black truffle salt. The wine as a 2006 Rosenblum North Coast Zinfandel. This wine was on the light side but still had the requisite smell of a Zin. The body and flavor fell in the middle area. It's just a nice entry level Zin with no pretension of being anything more. It was great with the steak.

The market rip this morning resulted in the last of the local blackberries, and that was another reason for going with a Zinfandel. The berries wound up being macerated with some sugar and lemon juice and then appearing in the stacked shortcake pictured below. It was a nice way to end the weekend.