Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Twelve Year Old Pinot Gris

Last night I wanted something special for no special reason. I found something very special in this 1997 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Rotenberg Pinot Gris. There's a lot of tasteless wine out there under the name of Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, most of which would be dead at five years of age. This twelve year old wine certainly wasn't one of them.

The color was edging toward golden in the glass and despite an initial smell that reminded me of sherry the suggestion of old age quickly faded. There was some mango and lychee in the nose along with a sweet lemonade suggestion. A few more whirls in the glass and out came a touch of honey, a wee bit of pineapple and some citrus peel and a few green herbs.

The wine had tremendous body to it and was not shy about it's taste. The citrus peel was there, the pineapple was there, and the mango or peach made an appearance. There was tremendous acidity and a finish that went on for some time. This was a wine that gave the initial impression of being sweet only to finish with a dry, refreshing blast of acid. It was fully mature without feeling old in any way.

On the way home from work they were playing a Rosemary Clooney song on the radio, one from her second to last album before she died. It was an apt description of this wine. The song was "You got Class."

There was some simple food, but the wine just took over the evening, and there is one glass left to try again tonight.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cascabel Tipico 2004

Interesting wine over the weekend, much more interesting than when I originally drank a bottle of the same wine several years ago.

The wine was a 2004 Cascabel Tipico from McLaren Vale in Australia. It's a blend of 40 Grenache, 40% Monastrell (Mourvedre) and 20% Shiraz. There was plenty of Grenache in the nose with aromas of strawberries and red cherries predominating, The wine had the body of Mourvedre with its berry like taste and the Shiraz added some tannin, depth and a hint of plums. There was enough acid to carry the wine and enough tannin from the Shiraz to hold everything together. There was a good length of finish with the final bit being just a touch of fruity sweetness.

Nothing was overpowering about the wine, it was just nicely balanced and a good drinking wine. Two years ago my notes tell me that I thought this wine was a little disjointed in that the parts didn't all seem to fit together. Not so this time as the additional bottle age brought everything together. Since it was the last bottle of this wine in the cellar I'll stick with the good thoughts of the second bottle.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conventional Wisdom Ignored

No, Conventional Wisdom is not the name of the artwork pictured. What's pictured is actually a sauce cooking in a pan and the ignoring of conventional wisdom has more to do with an unusual food and wine pairing that proved delicious.

For dinner tonight we seared a salt and pepper seasoned chicken breast in a skillet until it colored just a little. It came out of the skillet and went onto a small tray that was popped in a hot oven. A few chopped shallots went into the original pan with a little more oil for a couple of minutes. The pan was then de-glazed with white wine and chicken stock. Once that reduced by about 3/4 we tossed in some heavy cream, a pinch of saffron, a few shakes of red pepper flakes and some lemon zest. When all of that was heated, combined and reduced slightly we added freshly grated lemon peel, some grated Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Regiano cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly chopped tarragon. That's what's cooking in the picture above.

We boiled some fettucine while the sauce was cooking. In the end we drained the pasta and tossed it in the skillet with the sauce. After thoroughly combining the two we moved some of the pasta to the plate, sliced the chicken breast and laid it over the top of the pasta. Finally we drizzled the remaining sauce over the top of the chicken.

This is a meal that seemed to call for a chardonnay based wine, or with the tarragon included maybe a sauvignon blanc. We did neither. Instead I opened a 2007 Leitz Trocken Rheingau Riesling. The wine was totally dry and smelled of citrus zest and wet slate. The wine and the tarragon went together like Tristan and Isolde out boating on the Rhine. The acidity in the wine cut the richness of the sauce and the minerality just brought all the parts together.

For a quick supper after work, this one was a keeper.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Autumn is Close

The first of the winter squash hit the market this weekend, at least the first I've seen. It's a sure sign of fall which officially starts tomorrow. Pictured above is one of my favorite squash, Delicato. We hacked it in half, scooped out the seeds and roasted it.

We also picked up a locally raised Cornish hen. It was stuffed with fresh lemon thyme, a little ginger, a clove of garlic, fresh sage and a quarter of a lemon. It went in the oven alongside the two squash halves which were seasoned with a squeeze of lemon juice and a very light grating of fresh nutmeg. The house smelled like fall while the birds and squash baked.

It was time for a special wine so we opted for a 2005 red burgundy. The wine was a Ladoix, La Combe from Jean-Luc Dubois. When the cork came out it smelled like wet earth, wet leaves, and fruit. With a swirl or two it began to open a little and the fruit became tart cherries and other red fruits. There was quite a jolt of acidity to match the medium body and more than enough tannin to keep the thing going. We let the wine breathe for half an hour while the food was roasting in the oven.

By the time the food was ready the wine had lost the smell of wet leaves, the cherries were glowing and the dirt and earth were singing. It was nearly as much pleasure to sit and smell this wine as it was to drink it - almost, but not quite. The fruit filled the mouth with both sweetness and acidity and never let either of those things dominate. The tannins were still there but only added complexity without beating one over the head. The finish on this wine was quite long and pleasant and left a taste of both fruit and earth in the mouth.

When the 2005 burgundies hit the local market a couple of years ago I bought a half case that included two bottles of this wine. The intent was to drink this wine as a guide as to how its bigger siblings might be doing. If they are doing half as well as this wine I will be more than pleased when the time comes to pull the cork on them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away......

Well, maybe not in a galaxy far away, but definitely what seems like a long, long time ago Chenin Blanc wines got a decent amount of shelf space in this area. I even remember a Saturday wine tasting years ago where there five of them. Not so any more as they have virtually disappeared from the wine store shelves, replaced by row after row of bad chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and lately pale, almost tasteless Pinot Grigio.

It was nice to find a simple 2007 Monmousseau Vouvray on the shelf for $13.

Dinner was going to be grilled swordfish with a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes so we put an immediate, light chill on the wine.

Chenin blanc has an almost unmistakable nose, honey or honeysuckle vine and subtle flowers, and this wine was just that - light, floral and sweet. The taste was definitely white peaches and a slightly under ripe honeydew melon. There was a lot of body in this wine and that gave it a feel of sweetness just prior to the Chenin acid kicking in. The acid killed the sweetness and left the mouth refreshed, very similar to the feel of a German Riesling.

The wine was very good with the swordfish and since there was just a little left a couple of ounces replaced the water in a white peach sorbet that we whipped up for dessert.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Home Again

Nice to be back home. Business trips are mostly work and little fun and this one was not that different.

We uncorked some champagne to celebrate. To be precise it was a 2002 A. Lancelot-Pienne Cuvee de la Table Ronde and there was a smoked salmon and apple appetizer to go with it.

The wine was fruity and yeasty on the nose and had a great set of bubbles going for it. The taste was sharp with some apples, citrus and a tiny hint of strawberry overlaying the yeasty component.

The salmon was a smoked Alaskan Coho salmon. that was topped with some thinly sliced Honey Crisp apples, a little lemon juice, a tiny bit of olive oil and a grind of black pepper. The champagne cut through the fattiness in the fish while the hint strawberry and bread in the wine was great with the apple. Nice combination and it took three of us very little time to polish off both the appetizer and the bottle of champagne.

Dinner was a small tri-tip roast done on the grilled and a little pasta with olive oil, pancetta and sage. With that we opened a 1995 Fattori di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva. The wine was brick red with some browning at the edges. The nose was classic Chianti dirt and tart cherries. Due to it's age there was just a hint of leather sneaking into the wine, but this just added to the wine. More leather and I would have thought the wine was headed downhill. There was good acid and soft tannin in the wine and the cherries and a few herbs really poked out of the wine. Good stuff.

Friday, September 11, 2009


A weekend dish of Spanish eggs to hold the site while I'm out of the country on a business trip for several days.

The dish is sauteed smoked sausage pieces in a small tart or gratin dish. The bottom is layered with briefly sauteed tomatoes. Dry sherry is tossed into the skillet and reduced and poured over the tomatoes. Two eggs go in next, along with a little smoked paprika, pepper and a few gratings of hard cheese. The whole thing goes in the oven just until the egg yolks begin to set. It's important to take the dish out of the oven before the eggs totally set. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy with some crusty bread and a Spanish Cava or another glass of the sherry.

Hope there's some time to find a bottle of wine or two on this trip.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Modest Burgundy

There was a good salmon meal Monday night and two delicious wines. The first was a 2006 William Fevre Fourchaume, Premier Cru Chablis. This wine was discussed previously here and was very good the first time, and it was very good the second time as well. Citrus and minerals and a medium body defined the wine.

The second wine was a 2006 Gerard Raphet Bourgogne. There was no one element that was outstanding about this wine, but everything that was there went together to produce a finished product worth it's $30.

The color was medium, but was a true pinot color. The nose was about sweet cherries, damp earth and a tiny bit of saddle leather. The acid was good and there was just enough tannin to hold things together. The cherries were in full bloom in the taste. The finish was fruity and dry. It was a terrific match with the grilled salmon and an easy wine to sip after the salmon was gone.

Monday, September 7, 2009

♫Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam♪

and the deer and the antelope play....

To be factually correct the song should read where the 'bison' roam since the beast in question isn't really a buffalo and its scientific name is 'bison bison.'

Enough of being correct, last night there were two bison tenderloin fillets for dinner because it was a cool evening and they were on sale at the market. We also wanted something strong since there was a "big" wine for the evening. The fillets were wrapped in a strip of bacon, pan seared on all sides and finished in the oven to a temperature of 120 degrees. They rose to 130 by the time the pan sauce was complete.

The pan sauce was the drippings from the pan searing, some shallots, porcini mushrooms, a little of the wine, some Makers Mark bourbon, a touch of maple syrup, a little beef stock, some mushroom soaking liquid, a little Dijon mustard and after that all reduced down it was finished with a little sherry vinegar and butter. At the last minute some toasted hickory nuts were added to the mix.

The wine was a 2007 Petite Sirah from Seven Artisans. It was from the Suisun valley just east of Napa and specifically from the Clayton Road Ranch. The wine was decanted for one hour. In the glass the wine was opaque purple and with some swirling there was a tremendous amount of legs running slowly down the sides of the glass The nose was totally ripe, dark fruit, mostly very ripe and juicy black plums with some hints of blueberries and a touch of cinnamon. Calling the wine full flavored is an understatement as this was a mouthful of wine - one could almost chew it. There was the tannin always associated with petite sirah though it was actually a little softer than I was expecting. The finish was long and sweet, perhaps just a little too sweet for my taste. None the less it was an extremely well made wine though I found myself wishing for just a little more acid.

It did match up well with the bison and there were some complimentary flavors going back and forth between the two, but after a glass my palate was a little tired. We added a squeeze of lemon juice over the meat and that perked things back up a little, but I re-bottled half the wine into a previously used half bottle. There's a party this evening and there are some fans of really big wines and I want them to try this one.

There were about two swallows left in the glass about an hour after the meal so I took another sip and the wine had opened a little more. It was pretty tasty with a small piece of dark chocolate. My final thought on the first half of this bottle is that it may be best as an after dinner drink.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mauro Veglio Angelo 2005

So what does one do while waiting on Barolos and Barbarescos to mature and soften a little? A good answer is a Langhe Nebbiolo from a lighter vintage.

There was lamb and pasta last night for dinner and there was a longing for Italian wine. The 2005 Mauro Veglio Angelo was rescued from a close-out bin for $13 last winter and now it's time had come. In the glass the wine was the quintessential nebbiolo color, a cross between purple and brick and not overly saturated with color. The nose was all about sweet cherries, dusty earth and violets. The cherries and earth were in full force in the taste and they were balanced by tannin on the side of the tongue and good acid. The wine had its grip on the tongue but never did the tannin overwhelm the fruit. There was a good length of finish that left one waiting on the next sip. A very well made wine and a true bargain for $13. Sadly it was the only one in the close out bin.

The gamy quality of the lamb really matched well with this wine, it was a great interplay of fruit, earth and sweetness. Dessert was more wine and some curls of parmigiano.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chicken and Local Riesling

Easy dinner last night of chicken thighs and rice. The chicken pieces were marinated in lime juice, olive oil and chili powder then placed in a roasting pan. Tomatoes, serrano peppers, onions and garlic were added to the marinade for a few minutes then poured over and around the chicken pieces. The whole thing went into a 400 degree oven for half an hour. The result is above, served around a pyramid of white rice.

The wine was local. We opened a 2008 Kinkead Ridge estate Riesling. I purchased the wine this spring on its release and stashed it away for a few months before trying the first one. There is lime, a slight chalky taste, a tiny bit of kerosene and a small bit of grapefruit skin at the end. There are still some bubbles of youth that show up on the side of the glass. With 1.2% residual sugar and just enough acid it paired nicely with the heat from the chicken. The wine still needs some time to come around so the remaining bottles will have to wait. As someone once remarked this wine is like a virgin in a bordello - immature and young, but full of promise of pleasures yet to come.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Australia and Spain

Another beautiful and unseasonal evening yesterday and friends dropped by with a couple of large steaks for the grill.

I opened two wines. The first was a 2003 Cullen, Ellen Bussell Red wine from the Margaret River area of Western Australia. This was part of the mixed case of Australian wines discussed below, and since there was more than one bottle of this wine in the case there was no reason to wait.

The wine was brick red in the glass and the nose was black cherries and a little mint. The fruit was wonderful in this wine, forward, fresh and balanced with just the right amount of tannin and acid to keep the mouth refreshed. There was some oak, but not a great deal. The wine was medium bodied and finished with a dry fruit taste. Apparently this is the entry level wine from Cullen and is meant for a drinking window of up to five or six years. Whatever - it was delicious with the steak. Without opening the other bottle it won't be possible to see how this wine tastes on the second day since the bottle was empty when the evening ended. That's a very good indication of a good wine.

The second wine was Bodegas Alto Almanzora Este a non vintage red wine that is on sale in the local market for $9. Several years ago Spanish wines appealed to me but lately too many have 'gone California' and become overtly fruity and sweet with extract. This wine is made from Monastrell and is exactly what I liked about Spanish wines in the past. It's medium to light in body, has good fruit, just a touch of tannin, good acid and a pleasant dry finish. It's an excellent buy for $9 a bottle, or less than $100 a case. It's not trying to be serious, it's just trying to be enjoyable and fresh and that's exactly what it accomplishes.

Nice effort here.