Sunday, January 31, 2010

1996 Roda I Reserva

It turned out to be a Spanish night this evening and the wine was nothing short of amazing.

The wine was one of three bottles of 1996 Roda I Reserva that have been sitting in the cellar for more than a few years.  No need to delay things - this wine was phenominal.

There was a tri-tip roast with a Romesco sauce and some stir fried paella style rice for dinner so it was time to try one of these bottles.

The wine was a mature, medium garnet color in the glass and the nose was mostly blood and raw meat laid on top of some dark fruits.  After much sniffing and thought I got raspberries, both black and red and just a touch of earth and oak.  I would immediately fall in love with any woman who dabbed on this stuff as perfume.  

Those black raspberries were in full force in the taste, along with a slight touch of strawberries and just a suggestion of tart, red raspberries.  The fruit was sitting on top of a taste of dry earth and the hint of the red raspberries brought out a perfect touch of acid to balance things out.  The tannins were fully mature and integrated into the earthy taste.  The finish was lengthy and left the mouth refreshed and ready for the next sip of wine.

The tri-tip roast was seared in a cast iron skillet along with whole almonds, grape tomatoes and garlic.  Once the roast was browned and the tomatoes, almonds and garlic slightly blackened the roast finished in the oven while the tomato mixture was pureed in a processor with sherry vinegar, smoked paprika and olive oil. 

The Romesco sauce was suitably smoky from the smoked paprika and suitably tart from the sherry vinegar.  It was an almost perfect match for the wine. 

The last remaining decision for the evening is whether to save some of the wine to sample tomorrow.  No way will I hurry this wine, but it is such a pleasure to drink that I'm not so sure I can force myself to save it for a second day taste.

I still refuse to score wines - but in this case I will rate the wine and meal a 98 on the experience meter.  Great stuff.

The photo is the beginning of the meal, the roast, almonds and tomatoes charring in the skillet.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2007 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc

Back to wine drinking after the nasty flu bug is finally gone.

It started with a small fillet of beef made into a pan seared version of Beef Stroganoff.    I decided it was time to try one of the 2007 Kinkead Ridge reds and opted for the Cabernet Franc, primarily because that was the wine where my hand first came to rest.

I opened the wine and poured about a quarter cup for use in building the pan sauce  and poured some more into the glass.  Definitely a big nose on the wine and some dark fruit peeking out.  When dinner was ready we swirled and tasted.  The nose was still somewhat closed but rich, ripe fruit was foremost.  The color was medium dark and youngish.  There was also some oak in the nose.  The wine tasted of dark cherries over the top of some more tart red cherries.  There was a hint of tobacco in the nose, but I couldn't pick it up in the taste. The oak was there as well, coating the side of the tongue.  This is a big, full flavored wine.  There was good acid and a long finish that ended with some deep, dark fruit and a final bit of tannin.  Good wine that is still a year or more away from being ready, but with a good hearty beef dish it's certainly an option right now.

The wine is 84% Cabernet Franc and 16% Petit Verdot, and I suspect the the PV was responsible for that dark tannic finish.  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Odds and Ends

Finally recovering from a severe case of intestinal flu.  There has been no wine for a week.  There's also been no sunshine so when you combine the two it's been rather depressing.

That will change in a couple of hours as the digestive systems seems to be a go again. It's the eve of Robert Burns Day and any one with Scottish ancestry has to have something to toast the man.

And here's a reminder that the last Saturday in February, this year the 27th, is "Open That Bottle Night."  This was a great tradition started by John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter who until late December wrote the "Tastings" column in the Wall Street Journal.  That column ceased abruptly and people more informed that and I are speculating on the reasons.  I won't speculate.

The idea behind open That Bottle Night is simple.  Most people have a bottle that has been put away for a special occasion or a bottle that is just waiting for the correct time to be opened.  Quite often that time never seems to come.  February 27 is that night.  That bottle becomes the special occasion.

In the past readers were asked to e-mail John and Dottie to let them know what they opened and why.  A week or two later they did a wonderful column on what some of their readers drank.  Last year I was surprised to see my wine included in the column.  Despite the fact that there is no longer a column this wonderful tradition should not die.  Between now and February 27 find that bottle and plan yourself a party.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Longing for Spring

Dreary, gray skies, cold temperatures and a stiff breeze to make it all worse.  I want blue skies and sunshine. Worst of all it's day three of an intestinal virus and I'm tired of chicken soup and yogurt.  Hopefully this clears up by the weekend.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Auslese for Dessert

Nothing like an auslese to end a good meal, and that's the way the Saturday meal ended.  The wine was a 2003 Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen from the Rheingau.

Medium yellow in the glass the wine just oozed of sweet fruit, peaches, pineapple, apples and others.  Viscous in the glass it was great to sit there and just sniff it.  The taste was those mentioned fruits plus some minerality and light earth that  kept peeking through.  There was wonderful acid to balance that sweetness and the wine just stayed on that razor edge of being neither too sweet nor too tart.  Mouth feel was luxurious as the wine blanketed the tongue.   The finish hung around for a good amount of time and then ended with acidity to make you want another sip.

There was a tart apple dessert to match the wine, and while the dessert was good the wine was clearly the star.  Good stuff and there is one more in the cellar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lombard & Cie Brut Rose'

The Saturday cooking marathon started with some bubbly, in this case a non vintage Lombard & Cie Brut Rose'.  Beautiful, pale salmon color in the glass and lots of small bubbles.  The nose was very dry strawberries,  a little yeast and bread dough and just a hint of apple.  Very dry wine on the taste with great acid and those dried strawberries predominating.  The finish was bone dry sand refreshing.

Nice wine that went with assorted olives, cheeses, toasted almonds and some bread and olive oil. Good stuff and the last bottle from my cellar.

From there we moved on to skillet seared garlic shrimp with a pinch of red pepper flakes.  The wine was a 2008 Domaine Berthet-Rayne Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc.  The mix was 35% Clairette, 35% Bourbulenc, 20% white Grenache and 10% Roussanne.  Very closed nose at the start and perhaps a little too chilled.  Very viscous wine in the glass.  As the wine warmed up there was peaches and melons and a little mango coming out of the glass.  The peaches and melons were there in the taste but I would have loved just a little more acidity.  Nice long, finish that matched well with the shrimp.  There was just a tiny hint of honey at the very end.  Would love to try this one again in a couple of years.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


There was a fair amount of wine consumed yesterday over the course of more than eight hours.  Friends invited us over for an afternoon and evening of cooking and eating.  The theme, as sit were, was northern Italian and the entree was a long simmered Beef Barolo.

We'll hit all of the wines over the next few days but we might as well start at the top.  The beef was simmered in a 2006 Beni di Batasiolo Langhe Nebbiolo.  Naturally there were a couple of small glasses set aside for tasting.  The wine was young for drinking but the requisite road tar and roses were in full force in the nose.  There were some herbs and earth there as well.  Medium color in the glass, it took considerable swirling to get the wine to loosen up enough to be appreciated.  Full, young flavor of dried cherries and dirt and all that wonderful Nebbiolo tannin and a good amount of acid.  The finish was fruity and full flavored with a good blast of tannin at the end.

The glass was put aside and we went on to other things and allowed it to breathe for three hours while the beef braised.

We also opened and decanted the feature wine of the evening, a 1998 Luciano Sandrone Le Vigne Barolo.  Small amounts made it into a couple of glasses and the decanter was put aside to await the meal.

The wine was much paler in the glass than the first wine, having shed some sediment in the bottle over the course of its life.  From the first sniff it was obvious that this was a wonderful wine.  A quick sniff of the Barolo and then a quick sniff of the Langhe was an education in what class is all about.  The Sandrone made the Langhe seem common.

The road tar was there, but much less of it.  The wine smelled overwhelmingly of roses and cherries.  The more I swirled the more I fell in love with this wine.  A quick sip gave a taste of dry cherries and warmth from earth and spice.  The mouth feel was fantastic.  The tannins had softened somewhat, but still they were there to grip the tongue.  The wine was elegant.

It too was put aside and we went on to snacks and appetizers and other wines while the beef continued to braise. 

When the beef was ready we poured a large amount of the Sandrone into glasses.  Three hours had taken this wine from excellent to almost ethereal.  The nose had opened up to the point it was like smelling a bouquet of roses.  The wine softened a little but that incredible mouth feel was still there.  It felt like drinking  silk.  There was subdued cherry fruit, wonderful earthiness and perhaps a little thyme. I wasn't expecting that.    The wine was totally balanced and every part was near perfect.  The beef and the wine played off each other and made for quite a lengthy meal.  No way was anyone going to rush this wine. When it was gone that wonderful aroma clung to the empty glass and to the side of the decanter.

This was the second time I've tasted this wine, the first being two years ago.  I provided the Langhe and two other wines for the day but the hosts provided this wine.  It has more than several years ahead of it, though I can't imagine that it can get any better.  I have one bottle of this wine in my cellar and I feel like I should talk to it and tell it how much I loved its 'brother bottle.'

Simply an amazing wine.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pacific Rim Riesling 2007

I'd been searching in the local area for this Columbia Valley wine for nearly two years and last week I finally found a bottle.

It's not possible to order it direct since they are not permitted to ship to Ohio consumers.  The state of Ohio has determined that they make too much wine too allow it to be shipped directly to an individual so one has to search and wait.

Sadly, the search and the anticipation was more fun than the wine itself.  It seemed lacking in acid and tasted old, tired and flat.  There was a small amount of Riesling flavor, but not much.  Since this is a 2007 vintage wine I suspect this was a bad bottle.  $9.

What I really want to try is some of higher end, single vineyard wines from this producer, but those apparently aren't available at all in Ohio, and since it's the same producer as this wine they can't even ship those higher end to the state.

I'll stick with the Barnard Griffin wine reviewed below for a dollar more.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Bite of Tuscany

The weather remains amazingly cold, yesterday morning it was one degree (F) when we took Scott for his walk along the river.  Good walk, but even the wild life was hunkered down so there was little for him to chase.  His sister, Doer, stayed home to make certain the bed did not escape while we were out.

With those weather conditions dinner had to be something using the oven, the residual heat helping to warm the house.  The result became a winter inspired visit to Tuscany.

The entree' was porchetta, pictured above.  This is a pork loin rolled in chopped fresh sage, thyme, and garlic then encased in a section of pork belly.  It was browned on top of the stove then slow roasted in the oven to render a great deal of the fat.  Between the aromas of the warming herbs and the pork fat rendering the house smelled wonderful.  Once the roast rested it was carved into slices, those slices were briefly browned in a hot skillet.  There was a risotto made with an enriched chicken stock with a large handful of chopped, fresh spinach added at the end.  On the side was a chunk of ciabatta and some olio nuovo for dipping the bread.

The wine was a Fattoria di Felsina  2006 Chianti Classico.  It's a wine I love.  Bright red cherries, clean dry earth, a few fresh herbs, great acid, good tannin and all in perfect balance.  During the meal the wine opened up going from a little tight and restrained to open, warm, fragrant and inviting.  It was a little bit of summer in the dead of winter. It was summer when the above picture was taken, and the vintage in the photo is 1995.

Today we get another inch or two of snow, but warmer weather is coming later in the week.  When it gets above freezing it becomes grilling season again!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

El Coto Rioja 2005

Steak a few days ago with a little tomato Romesco sauce on the side so we cracked open the 2005 El Coto Rioja Crianza.

Several years ago I loved Spanish reds because they were unique and drinkable with a meal.  Then they tended to go "California" in their style and add more alcohol and over extraction to their menu.   When putting together the mixed case a few weeks ago I saw the "13% abv" on the label and added the El Coto to the case.

Spanish reds, at least this one, is back on the approved list.  Medium in color in the glass the wine looked more like a pinot noir.  The nose was fresh cherries and berries and whiff of a dry, Spanish wind.  The wine tasted of fruit and the earth and there was great acidity and just enough tannin to make it refreshing.  There was nothing overbearing about this wine.  It was honest wine that never took itself too seriously.  It really hit its stride with a bit of the Romesco sauce and bite of the steak.  Great combination, but it would also be good with chicken or pork. 

This was another $10 wine that with the case discount came out to $9.  For that price I could drink a lot of this wine. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Barnard Griffin Riesling 2008

Lots of snow yesterday, about 6 inches and the weather is turning very much colder today.

We warmed up the evening with some spicy garlic shrimp over rice.  Shallots and serano peppers were sauteed in some olive oil, then the shrimp and lots of crushed garlic were added.  Red pepper flakes came next, followed by a little Manzanilla sherry, a touch of butter and some salt and white pepper. 

The wine was a 2008 Barnard Griffin Columbia Valley Riesling out of Washington State.  This was another wine in the inexpensive mixed case from a few weeks ago.  I stuck it in a snow bank to chill for half an hour and then pulled the cork.  With the case discount the price came in at $9 for the bottle.

Definite green apple with a touch of kerosene on the nose.  Good mouth feel to the wine and decent weight.  The flavor was tart apple and white peach with just a hint of citrus.  There was enough residual sugar to soothe some of the heat in the shrimp, and the finish was a good blast of acid to refresh the mouth.  The wine checked in at 11.5% alcohol. It reminded more of Australian Riesling than German, and since I like both I was quite happy with this wine.

That's three definite winners from the bargain case, the Monte Antico, the Vieille Ferme white and this wine.  Good stuff at a great price.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not A Bargain

Some times a bargain really isn't one.  That's the case with this $9 Albarino, a 2008 Verdemar, pictured sitting in some snow.

There really wasn't much nose and the expected grapefruit and mineral aromas were absent.  There was a very generic and bland taste that was mostly like green grapes and a too sweet apple.  The definite lack of acidity didn't help this wine.  To its credit it did have a dry finish.

We ate some diver scallops and a small piece of baked Alaskan cod with the wine and no bells or whistles went off with the pairing.  The scallops were wonderful, but the wine was merely adequate.

This was part of a mixed case of low end wines we've been working our way through.  There have been a few winners from the case, but this one was a definite loser.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Fool Here

The last of the holiday parties was last night, a small gathering of four at my step-mother's home.

There were lots of munchies while we cooked the entre' for the evening, primarily a venison pate studded with cranberries and pistachios.  Good stuff.  Dinner was beef Stroganoff made with slices of fillet mignon and lots of mushrooms.

There were two wines, both good, but one very good.  The main bottle was a 2007 Michel-Schlumberger Le Fou Pinot Noir from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  This is a wine I tasted at the winery last October and was in the first shipment I received from their wine club.

Medium color in the glass with a bright, happy nose of red cherries, orange peel and dry earth.  The wine was full flavored but with sharp and fresh fruit as opposed to dark over ripe fruit that seems to be the fashion in California Pinots lately.  There was wonderful acidity and good integrated tannin to the wine and a refreshing finish that brought back the fruit and the earth.  Very good stuff, and since the sauce for the Stroganoff contained a few ounces of the wine, reduced in the pan, it was a wonderful pairing.  The food was good with the wine and the wine was great with the food, and that's exactly what I look for in a pairing.  They made each other better by being together.

As for the title of this piece?  Le Fou translates as "the fool."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dom Perignon 1998

Celebrations are some times more important than what you're drinking.

Early yesterday the phone rang and someone asked if I would like a glass of Dom Perignon 1998.  It seems that a bottle was open and the chief celebrant wasn't too happy with the wine and wanted a second opinion.  There are times when I'm always willing to assist a friend in need.

Beautiful light gold color and small bubbles filled the glass.  Definite grapefruit and lemon zest on the nose with some toasted nuts and warm spices.  The taste was tart, sharp, citrusy  and with the "toasted brioche" finish one expects.  There was elegance here and the bubbles were just about perfect.  The finish was full of the yeasty bread taste that I love and it went on for some time.  There was nothing wrong with this wine, it was just that the taste of the purchaser of the bottle. They were hoping for just a touch more sweetness in the dosage.  Since this was their first bottle of Dom they were just a little disappointed.  While pouring my third glass I assured them that they did the right thing in calling me for another opinion.

While the Gloria Ferrer sparkler was good on New Year's Eve, this wine was in another league entirely.  Not the best champagne I've ever had, but one that I could become accustomed to given more purchasing resources.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve was quiet but sparkling. It's a time to celebrate and also a time to reflect.   We were able to do that with one wine, a Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut from California. 

The reflection involved a trip to California some years ago, soon after the winery opened their new building overlooking the Carneros region of southern Sonoma County.  We stopped with some friends on a warm day and had sparkling wine on the terrace with toasted almonds and olives.  Fun day.

 The wine was in the store in Ohio for $18, inexpensive for this area.  There were some Island Creek oysters on the half shell, some pan roasted Alaskan cod, a small salad and some crusty bread for dinner.  After a slight chill the cork came out of the bottle.

The nose was about tart apples, some pears and citrus and just a touch of biscuit or yeast.   The bubbles were good, small and plentiful.  The taste was citrus and apples with a finish of some dried herbs.  The wine was very good with the cod, but wonderful with the oysters which were dressed with just some lemon juice and ground white pepper.   The  wine was a good buy at this price.

Today also marks the start of the third year for this blog.  It began as just a way to keep a few friends posted on what we were eating and drinking and what was going on with the dogs and the 'collection' of never ending flamingo paraphernalia.  It's been fun and happily addicting as well as become almost a personal data base. 

As the Scots used to say, "Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh"  "Good health and every good blessing to you."