Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Wine Week?

I certainly hope this mild stomach virus doesn't last that long, but it's been hanging around since Sunday and there's been no wine or other wonderful beverage since Saturday.  Couple that with an extremely busy period at work and there's just not enough hours.  Time to tell the bottles that I still love them and will be back in a day or two.

The photo was taken on a trip to California.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2004 Franciscan Cabernet

Friday morning we woke up to an inch of new snow on the ground but the day improved from there.  Today we woke up to green grass and sunny skies, and by the time the day was in full bloom we were at 60 degrees.  Yesterday was braising weather, today was grilling season.

There was a special on lamb at the local market since it is only a week until Easter, but the best deal was on porterhouse steaks, very thick porterhouse steaks.

The steak was grilled and there was the true sign of spring to accompany it, a baked potato with the very first, cut chives.  The chives were up enough to start cutting and a handful was snipped over the potato.  Heaven!

The wine wasn't too shabby either.  It was a 2004 Franciscan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium color in the glass, the wine smelled of cassis and mocha and earth.  Lots of fruit in the taste, mostly cassis and black plums.  There was a good amount of oak, but certainly nothing over done.  The acid was good and the length of finish was tremendous.  This wine was perfectly mature and perfectly balanced.  It tasted great by itself and it tasted even better with the steak.  It was remarkable for a Napa Cabernet two reasons.  It was only 13.5% alcohol and it was only $24.  I continue to wonder why so many folks making wine in Napa Valley seem to think that higher alcohol and over extraction makes a good wine.  A good wine that was fun to drink.

A side note:  yes, the blog looks different.  After three years it was time for an update and overhaul. There will probably be some tweaking over the next week or two, but I think we'll stay with this 'white wine' look.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Austrian Riesling

An impromptu mixing of ingredients for dinner last night.  There were some fresh shrimp and tomatoes so I added shallots, garlic, some olive oil and butter and sauteed everything quickly.  In went some smoked paprika and Amontillado sherry and at the last minute a quick shot of heavy cream and a good dose of red pepper flakes.

The entire contents were then tossed with some fresh linguine.  Nice meal.

The twist came off the cap of a 2006 Domane Wachau Terassen Federspiel Riesling.  I purchased two of these at $16 when I needed a couple of bottles to fill out a case to secure the 10% discount at the Italian wine tasting a couple of weeks ago.  I have enjoyed DW's Gruner Veltliner and the price ($14.40 with the discount) it was too good to pass up trying the Riesling.

There was a wonderful nose of citrus peel and minerals, and there was a fair dose of kerosene to go with it.  There was also a smell of spring about this wine - clean and refreshing.  The taste was citrusy but not to the point where it blocked out a taste of wet limestone that I love so much in a good Chablis.  Nice to find it in a Riesling as well.  Good fruit and depth of flavor lead to  a wonderful dry finish that lingered on the tongue.  It paired well with the smoked paprika and the red pepper flakes in the  sauce.

The wine checked in at 12.5% alcohol.  Outstanding wine at this price point. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steak and Wine

The rain predicted for yesterday held off until very late last night so it was off to friends' for a very thick, grilled rib steak in the late afternoon and early evening.

There were two wines to go with the steak.  First was the 2004 Mazzocco  Home Ranch Zinfandel from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  Extremely dark wine with a nose of dark plums and black raspberries and a little oak thrown in along the way.  Huge extraction and a complete blast of dark fruit in the taste.  There was some tannin hanging out on the sides of the tongue, but this wine was all about fruit.  My experience with wines this big is that they usually lack acid, and this one was a little low in that regard, but there was still enough there to help counteract the immense fruit taste.  Good, long finish that ended happily with some of the acid.

This was a wine that I was prepared to dislike before opening it since it checked in at 16.2% alcohol.  To its credit it remained balanced, though I still wouldn't want to drink more than a glass or two.  Good thing there were others to help.  A very well made wine.  No price on this wine as it was a gift from a friend who belongs to Mazzocco's wine club.

The second bottle was a 2002 Geyser Peak  Kuimelis Block Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  This was another dark and extracted wine.  The nose was very closed and sulphery at the start.  Eventually it showed cassis and black cherries, some cinnamon and vanilla.  The cassis and cherries were there in the taste, along with the cinnamon.  This was another wine a little low in acid.  The tannins were good and well integrated into the wine.  The finish on this wine came up a little short.
At $45 a bottle it could have been better.

As for the steak, it was delicious.  It paired better with the Zinfandel than the Cabernet. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nice Find

The still life above is my favorite decanter sitting next to what turned out to be a very good wine.  The pitcher is earthenware and is glazed inside and has been in use for almost thirty years now.  My parents used it for ten years and then it moved in with me.  There's been a lot of wine poured into and out of that old jug.  Give it a quick rinse and let it air dry and it's ready to go again.  It's not the fanciest decanter, but it accomplishes its task with a somewhat rustic charm.

The wine was a surprise find today, a 2005 Santini Barbaresco La Loggia.  The surprise was that the wine was only $16. I was a little suspect but bought a bottle to try.

The day was almost perfect here, upper 60 degree range, sunny skies, mild breeze.  Grill weather!  We roasted a whole, free range chicken on the grill and made a small pot of polenta, scented with white truffle oil.  When I lit the charcoal for the grill I opened and decanted the wine so it had nearly two hours time to breathe.

Lots of very tart cherries on the nose mixed with some spice, earth and flowers.    Medium, and true, Nebbiolo color.  The tart cherries were in full force in the taste, along with the earth and spice.  Very acidic wine and lots of gripping tannins on the side of the tongue.  Totally dry finish that had very good length to it.  It really played well with the slightly smoky taste of the chicken and really lit up with the white truffle oil in the polenta.   

As the evening wore on the wine kept getting better. It may have lacked the depth of flavor of some other Barbarescos, but at $16 it was about half of what I'm used to paying.   Nice wine and a great bargain.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Italian Wines - The Last Three

The Italian tasting ended with three wines not available for immediate purchase.  If one wanted these wines it was necessary to order them.  Two were remarkable and one wasn't entirely Italian.

First was Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso from the 2006 vintage.  This wine from Tuscany is a varietal Cabernet Franc.  It was unlike any Cab Franc I've tasted before.  The color was unique  in that it was a medium red with orange highlights to it.  There were sharp tart cherries in the nose and an unmistakable dose of Tuscan soil.  The taste was tart cherries with great acid and great, dry earth.  The depth of the flavor was amazing as the wine just  filled the mouth with wonderful tastes.  There was a healthy dose of tannin, both grape and oak.  The finish was the longest of any wine of the day.   This was truly a class wine and one I could drink again.  At $125 a bottle that won't be happening any time soon.

The next wine was also from the 2006 vintage, Vinosia Vigna Marzicanale from Campania.  The wine was a single vineyard Aglianico,  The wine was almost black in color.  The nose was a good clue as to what was coming as it smelled of the darkest, most ripe plums imaginable mixed in with blackberries.   The flavors were intense and highly extracted.  The wine had a sweet mouth feel without being over  done.  Full and rich and yet with a good dose of acid.  The amazing thing was that the wine finished very dry with good tannin and acid.  Quite an impressive wine.  At $45 it was a little pricey for an Aglianico, but that didn't stop me from ordering two. 

These were easily the best two wines of the day and a great way to finish.

The third wine was only partly Italian.  The wine was a 2002 Movia Veliko Rosso.  The vineyard straddles the Italian /  Slovenian border, with the majority of the vineyard being in Slovenia.  The wine was a blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, a strange blend that worked for this wine.  Dark fruit, black cherries, good acid, moderate tannins and a long finish made for a more than pleasant drink.  This wine was decanted from a double magnum.  A regular bottle is $29.  It was a unique experience but it suffered by coming after the two previous wines.

It was a very interesting tasting and now there are a few new and different wines in the cellar. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Italian Wines - A Little More Money

The third group of wines were a little more serious and so were some of the prices.

First was a 2006 Kepos Ampeleia, a Toscana IGT wine.  The wine was a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignano, Alicante and Marselan.  In short this was Cote du Rhone meets Tuscany.  The nose was very, very closed on this wine and after a lot of swirling it still stayed locked up tight.  There was good, deep fruit up front, lots of body, good acid and god tannin.  The fruit was a lot of very ripe strawberries and some darker cherries.  One could taste the earth here and it was essentially Tuscan earth, a drier earthy taste than a Cote du Rhone.  Good wine but at $29.99 not really a bargain.

The next wine was wonderful, a 2007 Le Macchiole, a Bolgheri Rosso blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah.  Deep dark fruit in the nose with with oak and vanilla in the mix.  Great flavor of ripe black cherries, cassis and at the end some tarter red cherries.  Good acidity, good clinging tannin integrated into the taste and a long, pleasant finish made this wine the best of the day to this point in the tasting.  At $39.00 a bottle it may have been the best bargain of the day.  It's resting nicely in the cellar as it's still a baby.

Finally we arrived in Barolo,  the Massolino 2004 Barolo from Serralunga d'Alba.  This wine was poured from a decanter where it had been sitting since being poured prior to the tasting.  The color in the glass was true,  somewhat light and orange at the edges.  This was a Barolo in the traditional style.  The nose was full of tar and flowers with earth and a few herbs mixed in.  With every swirl something else came out of the glass.  The taste was still closed but the earth was there, along with the flowers and some tart fruit, but the earth was foremost.  Good body and huge tannins that hammered the sides of the tongue and good acid that intensified the tannin.    Way too young to drink and a wine that probably needs ten years in the bottle.  $65.  If this blog is still going in ten years I'll let you know how it tastes since the one pictured here is resting nicely.

There were three more wines, and those will wait for another day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Italian Wines - Inexpensive Reds

Following the white wines at the tasting described below we moved on to a group of inexpensive red wines from various regions of Italy.

First up was a 2008 J Hofstatter Pinot Nero Meczan from the Alto Adige region in the far northwest corner of Italy.  Basically this is mountain grown pinot noir.  Here was a wine that looked like pinot noir, soft transparent color and more garnet than purple for a young wine.  The aromas were true pinot cherry fruit and good clean dirt.  The taste was all about the same earth more than it was about the cherries.  Medium weight, but alive with good acid and just a suggestion of oak at the end.  At a lesser price this would be a good buy, but at $20 a bottle it was a pass.

Next up was a 2008 Quattro Mani Montepulciano D'Abruzzo.  The aroma was good young fruit, raspberries and other berries over some damp earth.  The taste was fruit forward with the earth paying second fiddle here.  Medium weight and body, good acid, good medium purple color and a $9.99 price tag made this wine a keeper.  This wine would be a great hot weather red and a good red for grilled salmon.  Putting a slight chill on it in the summer would not hurt this wine.   Easy to drink and at the price an easy wine to buy.  A few bottles of this came home with me.

The next wine was a 2008 Soleto Primitivo from Puglia in southern Italy.  Lots of berries and briers in the nose along with a good dose of white pepper.  Lots of that same fruit up front with good acid and a healthy dose of tannin.  Cherry fruit near the end and a decent length of finish made this $11.99 wine a complete bargain.  A grilled steak and this wine would be wonderful together. 

Next in line was a 2007 Corte Sant'Alda Valpolicella Ca Fiui from Veneto in northeast Italy.  Dark berries and deep fruit in both the nose and taste of this wine.  Very little else going on here except for a slight green taste.  Not a bad wine, not a good wine, just a wine to drink.  At $21.99 it was a pass.

The last of the inexpensive wines was a 2007 Mirabile Nero D'Avola from Sicily.  This wine had a funky nose of eucalyptus and fruit along with the nose of a strong, aged and fully ripe cheese.  One taster in the group thought it smelled of sauerkraut.  Deep color and good fruit in the taste, and after some intense swirling the eucalyptus smell started to abate a little.   Up front there was a full flavored taste but in the middle the wine just simply died.  Tannic finish with little fruit.  At $14.99 not a wine I liked, and my least favorite of the reds.

From that point we moved on the bigger and much better things, but that's another post.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Italian Wines

While 90% of the wine I drink is with food, the other 10% can be very interesting.  That was the case yesterday when I went to a tasting of 14 Italian wines from DSWE (Domaine Select Wine Estates), a New york based importer.

The wines covered a broad spectrum from white to red, the north to the south of Italy, and from inexpensive to near prohibitive in cost. Some wine came home with me and more is on the way. 

There were three white wines to begin the tasting. The first was a sparkling wine, Villa Sparina Brut Cortese from the Gavi area of Piedmonte.  The wine was made from the Cortese grape.  The nose and taste had some peach pit aromas and there were some roasted nuts mixed in for good measure.  Very full bodied wine.  Bubbles were acceptable, but on the low side.  There was some decent acid in the wine but not as much as I would have liked.  There was a sweetness before the end, but the finish was dry.  All in all my least favorite wine of the day and at $29.99 not one that I would buy.

The second wine was from the same producer, Villa Sparina.  This time it was a 2007 Gavi di Gavi, also made from the Cortese grape.  There were peaches and pears in the nose along with toasted nuts.  There was great acid in this wine and a light and pleasant finish with a suggestion of mixed herbs at the very end.  Nice easy, drinking, fresh tasting wine, but at $18.99 not a great buy.

The third white was definitely a horse of a different color.  The wine was a Vinosia Greco di Tufo from Campania in southern Italy, pictured above.  This was a wine that demanded attention.  There was nothing shy about the nose that screamed green table grapes and whole, un-roasted almonds.  The almonds were particularly strong and there was also a bit of saltiness or sea spray to the wine.  The wine had a huge, almost oily body that was very reminiscent of a Condrieu.  There was a slight bit of oxidation to the wine and it gave it a faint suggestion of a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry, faint but definitely there.  The acid was a little bit low but this was a full bodied and interesting wine.  It was priced at $19.99 but it was worth investing in two bottles.  Good, unusual wine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Recipe / New Wine

I tried a new recipe the other day, compliments of the New york Times.  The recipe was for roasted chicken parts on a bed of fennel.

If one is trying new recipes one should also try new wines so I opted for a 2006 Schloss Gobelsburg Gobelsburger Riesling from Austria, the entry level Riesling from this producer.    I love their Gruner Veltliner and when I saw a markdown price on the Riesling a bottle came home with me.

First the wine.  Tart, tight, tons of minerality, some fruit, dry finish and moderate alcohol - all things I like.  The wine smelled like spring rain and tasted like almost sweet fruit.  There was just a touch of kerosene if one really wanted to look for it.  For $16 this wine was an excellent value.

The recipe was simple.  I sliced up a fresh fennel bulb and tossed it in a glass dish and doused it with olive oil and popped in a 425 degree oven for ten minutes.  I seasoned some chicken parts with salt and pepper, removed the dish from the oven and added them on top of the fennel.  I used a bulb baster and coated everything with oil.

The whole thing went back in the oven for another half hour, basting with chicken two more times with pan juices.  The photo below was taken between the seconded and third basting.

There was some fine grained, Kaljira rice to go with the chicken.

The wine really picked up the fennel taste in this dish and the fennel brought out a touch more sweetness in the wine.  It was a very interesting pairing and one I really liked.

There was one glass of the 2008 Kinkead Ridge Revelation white (see below) left in the fridge so I let it warm up a bit and tried it with the dish.  The herbaceous flavors in the wine really jumped with the fennel, and like it was with the Riesling the acid and tartness in the wine cut through the richness of the chicken.  I wouldn't hesitate to drink either wine with this dish again.

The finished plate is below with some chopped parsley and two lemon wedges.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Domaine de Gachon 2000

Beautiful weekend here and the 'fur really flew.'  It was 50 degrees and sunny and both dogs were attacked by the dog clippers and huge quantities of hair came off their heads, necks, shoulders and chests.

The grill came into play for the first time this year since the snow melted enough to make it accessible again.  There was a small strip steak, fresh asparagus and polenta cakes all done on the grill and some onions caramelized on the stove top with some duck fat and butter to top the steak.

The wine was a 2000 Domaine de Gachon St. Joseph.  Medium color in the glass and just the beginning of orange on the edges.  The nose was wonderful dark fruit, ripe black plums and dark cherries all sitting in top of freshly turned earth and some raw meat.  The wine and the uncooked steak had a remarkably similar aroma.

I decanted the wine and then lit the grill so the wine had about an hour of breathing time.  The nose kept getting better.  The taste was all those fruits and earth, some well integrated tannin and great acidity.  This was still a full bodied wine.  This was my third experience with this wine.  The first was wonderful but the second  had a touch too much brett and faded quickly.  This one was far and away the best.  Great depth of flavor, wonderful acid, good clean finish and very few flaws.  It did all of this at only 12.5% alcohol.

The asparagus was a definite non-worker with this wine but the steak and onions and the grilled polenta were terrific and made a great pairing.  There is one final bottle in the cellar and I'll wait until autumn to drink it on its tenth birthday.  Very good wine and another reason to love northern Rhones.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kinkead Ridge 2008 Revelation White

I was in the garden beds yesterday evening and the chives and fresh tarragon are both poking above the ground and there was a hint of green in the mint area.  The days are longer and we are finally getting some sunshine.  Things are coming alive again.

Anything growing and being green in the ground is great so we went with a spring like pan roasted chicken breast last night for dinner along with some sauteed corn and shallots.  The corn was the one remaining package frozen from fresh corn last summer.

After a brief chill we pulled the cork on a Kinkead Ridge white Revelation from the 2008 vintage.  The wine is mostly sauvignon blanc and semillion with a few other varieties blended in for good measure.  It was tart and fresh with a great herbaceous feel to it.  There was a little bit of apple and a small bit of pear in the wine and maybe just a touch of yellow fig, but the acid is was its greatest asset.  The wine tasted like spring and that's what I was looking for.  The wine retails for $14 and is 14% ABV.  Total production was 150 cases. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dolcetto D'Alba

Great evening last night and the wine wasn't too shabby either.  The wine was a 2005 Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto D'Alba.  Inky dark and smelling of ripe plums and dark cherries the wine really lit up with a couple of lamb chops.

Full flavored and sweet fruit paired with great tannin that was upfront but not harsh in any way.  The acid was typically low for Dolcetto, but the tannin and the fruit were so well paired that one hardly missed the acid.  Went down smooth and with wonderful elegance to it.  Probably at its peak right now, but there's one more in the cellar to try in a year or so.  Personal opinion - this is as good as Dolcetto gets.  $24.00 and 13% alcohol. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Something Green This Way Comes

...with apologies to Ray Bradbury.

Several warmer days recently and more to come by the weekend.  In a protected, south facing spot by a fence line I found something green yesterday.  It was wonderful.

Wine of the night with a small strip steak was a 2007 Domaine de Fontenille, Cotes du Luberon rouge.  A good, balanced effort with fruit and earth and a tiny hint of brett in the nose.  Strong flavors of strawberries and cherries mixed with some clean earth.  Great acidity and tannin, both grape and oak.  I decanted about 2/3 of the bottle while the steak was cooking and it really opened up.  The last glass of the evening was the best.  Will try the other third this evening.

14% alcohol and only $16.  Very good wine at this price.