Monday, May 31, 2010


There was little doubt about the top wine at the Lobster Fest below, a 2006 William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros. 

The wine was very closed up at the beginning but with some swirling some crisp apple and citrus peel finally showed up.  Beautiful, pale young color.  Totally crisp with acid and minerals and a deep taste of ripe citrus and crisp stone fruits.  The finish was all about munching on oyster shells, crisp and almost salty.  This wine is still very young but it was absolutely delicious with the lobster.  There was just a light bit of smoke in the lobster meat from the grill and the minerality of the wine was a perfect match for that smoky taste.  Superb wine.

This blog started as and basically remains just a way for me to keep track of what I drink and eat and to share that info with friends who always seem to ask.  It's still amazing to me that other folks read this, and that's a definite bonus.  This is post #400 over the last 3+years and since there's more wine in the cellar there's likely to be 400 more posts.

Off today to visit local wineries who are releasing there latest wines this weekend. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Piece of Maine

Lots of great food and wine yesterday afternoon and into late evening.  The four crustaceans above were participants in the festivities, along with twelve of their cousins.

The lobsters arrived in Ohio on a flight from Maine in the early morning and were moving out the door of the market by 9:00 AM.  I had a great time talking to one of the lobstermen who came along on the flight.  Brendan Ready and his brother John are the owners of Ready Seafood and the major part of Catch a Piece of Maine.  Interesting business model.

We steamed the lobsters in the early afternoon, cooled them and then separated them into parts.  When it was time to eat all the claws and tails were cracked and went onto the grill for a few minutes to finish cooking and reheat a little.  There was a little bit of oak smoke added to the grill and the result was just a festival for the mouth.  Great food.

There was a lot of wine available and over the next couple of days we'll give each one its due.  The top wine for me was the 2006 William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros.  This was a wine that was impossible to fault.

Before most of us realized it was late in the evening and the party just kept rolling despite the arrival of a few mosquitoes.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lobster 2010

Big day here and the weather promises to cooperate by being in the low 80 degree range with minimal humidity.  It's time for Lobster Fest 2010 and more than a dozen crustaceans will be steamed, dismembered, cracked and grilled late this afternoon.  There will lots of white wine and a few side dishes.  Definitely one of my favorite days of the year and the unofficial start of summer here.  The above photo was one of last year's participants.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wise One

Very interesting wine over the last two evenings, a 2007 Michel Schlumberger "Le Sage" Merlot from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  "Le Sage" translates as the wise one, and thus the title of this post.

Last evening was a small pan seared fillet mignon  and I opened 'the wise one' and poured a glass.  There was a strong smell of ripe fruit sitting on top of some damp earth and it was anything but subtle.  The taste was full of deep and very ripe fruit, blueberries and cherries.  The acid was appropriate and there was a healthy dose of tannin.  There was also a slight alcoholic burn on the finish (14.5%).  Except for the heat from the alcohol this was a wine whose individuals parts I liked, but taken as a whole it was disappointing.  The wine was not together, it just seemed a collection of parts.  We killed two glasses, placed a vacuum cork in it and put it back in the cellar.

Tonight was mostly snacks and since two of them were mushroom based we decided to finish off the merlot.  The vacuum cork came out and so did a wonderful fragrance of earth and blueberries.  Unlike the previous day this aroma enveloped and caressed the nose instead of virtually assaulting it.  The taste was wonderfully smooth and had a sense of elegance to it.  The tannins had blended in and were softer.  In short, the rough edges were gone and the various parts of this wine now came together into a very nice package.

"The wise one" may have missed on it's first shot, but someone was there to slam home the rebound off the goalie.  Nice wine. Sadly it was my only bottle, but in future vintages I will definitely decant this wine before drinking it. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

2007 Buehler Napa Valley

Lots of good reviews on the 2007 vintage in Napa and a fair number of the wines are hitting the shelves now. Yesterday morning at the market there were a couple of cases of Buehler cabernets at a reduced price of $20.  They were all supposed to be the Napa Valley bottling, but somehow a couple bottles of the "estate" wine got mixed in.  Both bottles of the estate wine came home with me as well as one bottle of the Napa bottling.    We opened that one for dinner last night.

Lot of red cherries and cranberries in the nose and taste.  Sharp and tart and not over extracted in any way.  Wonderful acidity and ripe tannin and the oak was well under control.  The finish revealed a darker side, a little dark cherry flavor.  List price is $25 and for a Napa Cabernet that's very fair.

The market also had a sale on tri-tip roasts and even though I had fixed one a little more than a week ago the price was too good to pass on fixing another one.  We served it with Romesco sauce and a curried couscous with cranberries and spring onions.  I normally use red currants in this dish, but having tasted the wine and found it full of cranberry flavor I opted for dried cranberries.  The beef was good with the wine, but the couscous and cranberries were a match made in heaven. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Michel Schlumbereger Viognier

Dinner last night was grilled swordfish with some fresh fava beans.  The fish was marinated for an hour in a olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic. lemon zest, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper and then tossed on a hot grill until it was cooked to medium.   The Aleppo and the lemon zest stood out here.  Nice flavoring.

The wine was a 2009 Michel Schlumberger estate Viognier from a limited release of 280 cases.  The wine was bright and clear and smelled of pear skins and pineapple, and maybe a little bit of Kiwi fruit.  It also had a whiff of the light kerosene smell I get from a good Condrieu.  The kero smell is not nearly as pronounced as it is in Riesling, but it's there in Viognier as well.   Great acidity and sharpness led to the pineapple and almost ripe pear flavors.  The finish seemed to be going sweet, but the very end was bone dry and wonderful.  Super match with the swordfish as it really picked up the Aleppo and lemon. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2005 Rioja

Tri-tip steak Friday night with Romesco sauce.  We went with a Spanish wine, a 2005 Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza.

Interesting color in the glass, reddish brown with a slight bit of purple, as though someone mixed some rust color into the wine.  Wonderful nose of dirt and red cherries.

Full flavored with the cherries, a bit of cinnamon, a hint of vanilla and a wonderful taste of totally clean and dry earth.  Great acidity, good tannin and a very well balanced wine.   For $20 it's priced just about right. 

Finished it off last night and it was still fresh and good.

Nice wine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hermitage and Cassoulet

It's hard to know where to start with this wine; beautiful mature color, an aroma that filled the entire room, a mouth feel as smooth as silk and as slick as satin,  a small taste of heaven and a light refreshing finish.  The wine was a 1990 E. Guigal Hermitage that's been sitting in the cellar for a number of years.

The aroma was an amalgam of dark fruit, soil in a totally clean barnyard, fresh leather, cinnamon, cardamon and a few other spices.  There was nothing subtle about the aroma.  The taste was mixed, mature fruits, dark cherries and plums and currants.  The taste lasted for almost half a minute.  There was still a bit of tannin and perfect acidity.  Everything about this wine was together and its exactly why I like wines that have the ability to mature and become something like this.  There have been times when I've held a wine too long, but not this wine.  This was as close to perfect as I've had in some time.

Dinner was nearly it's equal, a mostly traditional cassoulet from one of Julia Child's books.  It started four days ago when we soaked the beans.  Later that day they were cooked with some salt pork, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, lavender, garlic and onions.  When they were done they went into the refrigerator for a couple of days to mellow and age. While they were aging we braised some chunks of lamb shoulder and some rabbit in white wine and chicken stock.  That also aged for a day and a half.

The final assembly included a layer of the beans and a layer of the mixed meats.  To the lamb and rabbit we added chopped duck confit and a small amount of chorizo sausage.  We repeated the bean layer, and the meat layer and ended with a final layer of beans.  The braising liquid from the lamb and rabbit was added.  The top of the casserole was then covered with a mixture of fresh bread crumbs and parsley and drizzled with a little duck fat.  Into a hot oven it went.  At half an hour the bread crumbs had formed a crust and that was punched down into the beans and meat.  When the second crust formed at an hour the casserole came out of the oven.   See the picture below.

The crumbs were crusty and toasty, the meats soft and luxurious and the beans perfectly cooked and filling.  Of course there was enough to feed a small army, but we put a severe dent in the dish over the course of the evening.  In the last week of my life, and I hope that's many years down the road, I want this meal and this wine again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three from Napa

There was a new puppy in the extended family to visit last night, a fourteen week old Havanese.  To celebrate the folks raided their wine cellar for three nice wines.

Best of the lot on this particular day was a 2000 Beaulieu Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.   The BV Rutherford is nearly always wonderful and remains one of the few consistent bargains in Napa cabs.  This one was no exception.  Dark fruit of black cherries and cassis, fully ripe and rounded tannin, and good acidity teamed up with the bottle age for an elegant wine.  There was good depth, a hint of dark chocolate and earth at the end and just a wonderful feel in the mouth.  The wine is at its peak but showed no signs of going over that peak.

Next up was a 2003 Beaulieu Tapestry, a blend of Bordeaux varietals.  This wine picked up the acid and the tannins in a major way.  The fruit was good, but the fruit was redder than that in the 100% Cabernet wine.  Dark red cherries, and almost a hint of cranberry dominated here.  The tannins were strong and still a little gripping and the acid stood out at the end.  Vanilla was about the last sensation on the finish.  This was a wine where each part was good, but the whole had yet to come together.  It cried out for a steak and about two more years bottle age.

Wine number three was a Groth 2004 Cabernet.  Dark red cherries here again, and this wine had a hint of cinnamon and leather as well.  Good depth of fruit, full flavored, nice ripe tannin and good acid.  There was a little bit of heat on the finish and the alcohol level was pushing 15%.  Two more years will do wonders for this wine as well.

The photo?  The sage in the yard is blooming and fragrant.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mazzocco and Caymus

The weather was a little cool and breezy yesterday afternoon, but the steaks and the wine more than made up for it.  It was a large gathering so the steaks were hand cut to order from  a large strip, thinner steaks for those in the crowd who liked well done, medium for those folks who wanted pink centers, and somewhat thicker for those of us who go the more rare route.

There were four wines and two of them stood above the others.  The first cork out was a 2005 Mazzocco Maple Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  The wine was as dark as midnight with no moon, stars, or other form of lighting to lighten any thing.  The nose was intense fruit, blackberries and black raspberries both completely and fully ripe.  With a little swirl it took some time for the wine's legs to run down the sides of the glass.  There was a lot going on in this wine.  The taste was amazing, let's call it blackberries on steroids.  The wine filled the mouth with ripe fruit and just a touch of tannin and left the mouth coated with that flavor.  There was a surprising amount of acid on the finish.  This was not a wine for the faint of heart, but it was so incredibly balanced that I found it difficult to complain about the 16.8% alcohol.  Still, I was happy there was a crowd to help drink this wine because as good as it was it quickly tired the mouth.  It did tend to overwhelm the steak a little with it's huge flavors.

The wine of the night was the 1997 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon.  Dark cherries, cassis, earth and moderate alcohol.  There was great acid and tannin and a perfect maturity to the wine.  Moderate fruit in the taste and a much more mature taste than the Zinfandel.  The finish was dusty and slightly smoky in all the good ways.  Superb with the steak.  Just a treat to drink, and the best part is that there is still a bottle left in the cellar.  It probably won't be there long.

The biggest disappointment of the evening was the 1994 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet, a wine long past its prime.  The fruit was cooked and stewed, the tannins harsh and the acid a little flat.  The last wine was a 2004 Reynolds Family Vineyards Cabernet from Napa.  It was a little underwhelming, but still better than the Beringer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

And So It Begins...

Birthday week began last night and since it involves staying home all week there will way too much good food and more than several bottles of good to great wines.  Among those bottles sitting upright and waiting for cork removal are a 1990 Guigal Hermitage and a 1996 Roda I Rioja. 

It all started last night with a 2000 La Braccesca, a Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano.  Last summer I discussed the 2001 vintage (here) of this wine.  This one was very similar to those notes. Bright cherry flavors, good acid, nice finish.  It lacked the same depth and intensity as its younger sibling, but it was still a good wine.  This particular bottle was a little leaner and a little more tannic.  It was just the depth of the fruit that was different.

Dinner was grilled, thick cut, pork rib chops with a glaze of balsamic vinegar and honey and some skillet potatoes to go alongside.  Good with the wine as the balsamic seemed to bring out a little more fruit in the Vino Nobile. 

More time was spent cooking yesterday since Monday or Tuesday will be a cassoulet, a casserole of white beans, duck confit, lamb and sausage.  The beans were cooked and need to age a couple of days. The lamb was braised and between the lamb and the beans and the herbs involved the house smelled wonderful. There's a lot of work involved in this dish, but I can already tell it will be worth the effort.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring Food

Good meal and good wine last night and very much homage to spring.

Made a quick stop at the market and they had some fresh peas.  Most of the year I use frozen peas, but the very first ones in the spring are different.  It takes a few minutes to shell them, but it's definitely worth the effort.  They were blanched until just barely tender then tossed in a buttered skillet with some finely chopped Vidalia onion and sauteed until just cooked.  At the very end I tossed in some chopped mint, fresh from the garden.  For a "side dish" this one always steals the show in the spring an d last night was not an exception. 

We paired that with a halibut fillet that was dusted with aleppo pepper and pan seared. 

The wine was a 2007 Vinosia Greco di Tufo from southern Italy which I originally examined here.  One big difference this time was that the slight bit of oxidation was not present.  This seemed a fresher bottle.  The green grape and unroasted almond components were still strong and the mouth feel on this wine still reminded me somewhat of a Condrieu.  This bottle seemed more alive than the one I sampled at a wine tasting.  Will drink the second bottle soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sly Dog Again

The cold is gone to the point where I can taste again, both food and wine. 

Tonight was another bottle of one of the best values in California Cabernet in the last couple of years, 2005 Sly Dog Cellars, Bin 92, from the Red Hills of Lake County.   One year and one day ago we drank a bottle of this wine (report here) and thought it was very good.  At that time I went back and bought three more bottles and put them away. Tonight there was some duck confit and pasta for dinner and I was in the mood for a Cabernet so I opened bottle number two of this wine. 

Several things changed with the wine.  The fruit did not seem as dark as before, it seemed more red, and the suggestion of vanilla was replaced with a hint of cinnamon.  Another year in the bottle gave the wine a more mature taste and instead of being predominantly fruity there was a fair bit of earth.  I could taste the "Red Hills."  The acid was still strong and with the richness of the duck confit that was a very good thing.  The two were very good together.

There is nothing profound here, just good, honest, drinkable wine that goes great with food. The bottom line on this bottle - I'm very happy there are two more in the cellar.  Check back in the first week of May in 2011 and 2012 to see how the other two bottles fare.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring Herbs

No wine for the last few says as I'm plagued with a horrible spring cold.  Today was the first day in the last three that I even felt like eating.

It's been raining again for the last three days and the spring herbs are loving it.  Pictured here is the tarragon that is growing in a huge pot outside the front door.  The lemon thyme is going great guns and the sage has a large number of buds and we should soon have a lot of purple blooms.  The chives are spreading and blooming, the rosemary is back in the ground for the summer, the lavender is sending up tendrils to bloom and the mint is taking over a hillside.

Today's meal featured the tarragon.  There was a pan seared chicken breast that was finished  in the oven while a reduced chicken stock was added to the pan along with some shallots.  When that reduced again we added a small amount of heavy cream and some chopped fresh tarragon.  There were some carrots and shallots sauteed in butter with more of the fresh tarragon and some brown rice.

A Sauvignon Blanc would have been wonderful, and a chardonnay would have just as good.  Another day or two and the nose and taste buds should be recovered. The only bright side to the cold is that it is occurring now instead of next week.  There are some serious dinners and some wonderful wines on the agenda and those won't be spoiled by having a plugged head.