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.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chateau Beaucastel 1996

This was delicious!

This wine rested in the cellar for ten years. It was never forgotten, it's just that it was never foremost in my mind until earlier in the week when I was pulling out the 1997 Zind Humbrecht discussed below. I pulled this bottle at the same time and waited for the weekend to open it.

Years ago on American TV Orson Wells did a commercial for Paul Masson Wines where he proclaimed, "We will sell no wine before its time." You Tube is kind enough to have this in their archives here. In this case we weren't concerned about selling the wine, only with drinking it, but the commercial popped into my mind because it was "time" to drink this wine.

I pulled the cork and there was a room full of dry earth and spices. The wine in the glass was light and clear, more like a Burgundy in color. There was just a hint of brick at the edges. The interior of the bottle was crusted with sediment on the side on which it had rested. With a little swirling it released some wonderful aromas of dry, dusty earth, cardamon, cinnamon, squeaky clean leather and dried orange peel. There was only a suggestion of fruit, but that only added to the appeal of this wine to me.

The taste was the same earthiness and just a hint of herbs. The wine was not shy and it filled the mouth with flavor. There was some great acidity and the proper amount of tannin. On the finish some fruit finally popped out of the wine. There were ripe, red cherries and just a suggestion of fully ripe strawberries. The finish was long and more than pleasant.

There was a dry aged rib steak from the grill for dinner and some potatoes cooked in duck fat and some carrots with fresh tarragon. The wine stood up to all of it and the food brought out more fruit in the wine and also played up on the gamy aspect of the wine.

After two hours there was more fruit and a little less spice.

Even though this is not considered a 'great' vintage for Beaucastel, it was a remarkably delicious and mature wine and perfect for a cool autumn evening.

I wish there were more of it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Funerals and 2008 Riesling

I spent the day in eastern Kentucky attending a funeral for my uncle. It's the second time in fifteen days that I've been there for a funeral, the first time was for my aunt. She and my uncle were married for 67 years and they died fifteen days apart. Somehow it seemed appropriate.

Over the years I spent time with them on many occasions and it always led to a party of some sort. They loved cocktails, good food, good wine and country music. Whenever I showed up there was always lots of each intermingled with great conversations and many happy memories. I'll miss those visits.

Somehow it seemed like the thing to do to stop at a wine and liquor store coming home. While cruising the aisles I noticed that the 2008 German Riesling were on the shelf. I picked up several and after a brief chill this evening I opened a Leitz Dragonstone from the Rheingau region. The nose was all lime peel, a few wild flowers and some honey overlaying some minerals. Add some tart apples to the mix and that's exactly how the wine tasted. The acidity was great and the finish was just enough off dry to make it very appealing. The slight 'spritz' to the wine added another pleasant dimension.

It's difficult here to find a more consistent and good Riesling in the $12 to $17 range than this wine. Checking the cellar log there are at least one bottle each from the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages of this wine on hand. There are several bottles of the 2005 and it remains my favorite. At $14 I may add another bottle or two of the 2008 for near term drinking.