Sunday, June 27, 2010

Willi Schaefer Auslese 2005

We started yesterday's dinner with a very good champagne, and we ended it with something  truly remarkable.  The wine was a 2005 Willi Schaefer Graacher Dromprobst Riesling Auslese from the Mosel.  The wine was from a 375 milliliter bottle.

Light golden in the glass the nose was about white flowers and subtle perfume with hints of citrus and peach.  The flavors were rich apple, melon, lime, white peach and apricot all kissed by a touch of honey.  The mouth feel on the wine was incredible.  Rich, unctuous, enveloping, comforting.  At the moment where this wine seemed headed over the top in richness the acid kicked in as a counterbalance.  That acid stayed all the way through the sweet, sharp finish.  Lime and honey were there at the very end.  A total pleasure to sip through an evening. 

There are two more in the cellar and they will be given more time.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Celebration

Thirty two years ago today the first Gordon Setter arrived at the house and started the proverbial slippery slope that has seen many more spend their lives here.  Thirty one years ago today Gordon number two was born. The two current Gordons are directly descended from her.  It's been a very happy thirty two years.

So how does one party?  Scott and Doer, the current dogs, got a bison burger mixed in with their dog food tonight and have been happily chewing rawhide since then.  It's not been a bad evening for humans either.

The celebration started with a Vicomte de Castellane Brut (non vintage).  Nothing says celebration more than champagne and this one didn't disappoint.  The nose was toasty with yeast and bread and there was a more than adequate amount of tiny bubbles.  Tart and appley with good acid.  Lively and sharp but with a tiny dose of sweetness at the end.  Not the very best, but certainly more than acceptable. 

There were oysters to go with the champagne.  Batch number one was from the half shell while batch number two was popped on the grill until they opened.  There was a mignonette sauce with champagne vinegar, vermouth, finely chopped shallot, lemon juice and ground black pepper.  We even waved a branch of fresh dill over the top of the sauce to add a tiny zing to it.  Great with the fresh oysters and even better with the grilled ones. 

I would have been happy if the evening stopped there, but it continued through two more wines, some more food and ended with a celebratory pair of Scottish whiskys.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Steelhead Zinfandel 2006

During errands last weekend I stopped at a market that I visit infrequently because I needed one item and I was close by the market.

As usual I wandered through the wine section and discovered a closeout sale on 2006 Steelhead, a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from Quivira Vineyards. 

It's difficult to find a food friendly Zinfandel since the "bigger is better" syndrome took over the varietal.  Zin used to be one of my favorite reds, but the high alcohol and ultra ripeness that is in fashion definitely curtailed my purchases. 

Quivira was one of the first two California wineries where I took more than the perfunctory tourist tour and tasting a number of years ago.  I liked their wine then and have had the occasional bottle since that time.  They've always been good.  When I noticed that the alcohol level was only 13.8% three bottles came home with me at $11 each.

The wine is 86% Zinfandel and 16% a mixture of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignane.  Since there was a steak on hand we opened a bottle last night.  The nose was sharp blackberries and black raspberries and a touch of spice.  The fruit was definitely in force as was the wonderful hint of cracked, black pepper.  Good acid and moderate tannin finished off a wine that was perfect with the steak.  Not a huge wine, and for that I was thankful.  Imminently drinkable and refreshing and affordable at the sale price.

Quivira is less than a mile from two of my other favorite wineries, Rafinelli  and Michel Schlumberger,  so I suppose that makes the intersection of West Dry Creek Road and Wine Creek road just about ground zero for my preference in wine in this part of Sonoma.  Next time I visit that area I'll have to take a picture of the intersection.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Berries

I stopped at a small, roadside market yesterday during errands.  There were just picked red and black raspberries, the very first local fruit of the season.  It was a wonderful year in this area for strawberries so a container of each color raspberries came home with me for evaluation.

They were tossed with some sugar and allowed to macerate for several hours and then served over fresh pound cake, although a good handful of each was simply washed and eaten by hand for lunch.  Remarkably fresh and sweet with good acid.  Both colors were wonderful and I refuse to choose between them.  It is obviously a great year for raspberries in this area and with the current weather pattern it should be a great year for wine grapes. Here's hoping. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2008 Moreau Chablis

The 2008 vintage from Chablis is arriving in the marketplace and the reviews on the vintage as a whole are outstanding.  The latest to chime is is The Wall Street Journal.

Several weeks ago I ordered some wine from New York and among those that I ordered were two bottles of the Christian Moreau offering from the 2008 vintage.  I was quite pleased to read the following in the Journal from Lettie Teague...
One of my favorite producers, Christian Moreau, was positively voluble on the quality of his 2008 wines. I loved the spare, elegant 2008 Christian Moreau Valmur Grand Cru at $65 a bottle. “They are wines to age,” Mr. Moreau declared.
I didn't order the Valmur but I can attest to the fact that I fell I love with his simple Chablis.  Tart and  restrained on the nose the wines was full of that special minerality that I love in Chablis.  The fruit was sharp and focused and there was that tight edge of acid that makes a well made Chablis my favorite white wine of them all.  There were some oysters to accompany the wine and a pan seared halibut fillet to fill in around the oysters.   Little else was needed but there were a couple of crusty rolls to break apart and soak up the juices left on the plate.  Life can be very good.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vega Sindoa 2009 Rose'

The 2009 Vega Sindoa Rose' should sell with batteries included for the electric or neon pink color of the wine in the bottle.  Had this wine ever made it to the cellar I'm certain it would have glowed in the dark. The wine is 100% Garnacha (Grenache) and it is definitely a fruit forward wine with an upfront taste of fresh pressed cherry juice.  There's also a hint of citrus in the wine via a good dose of acid and a tiny bit of spiciness resembling a faint taste of cloves.  With the large amount of fruit on the front end I was expecting an off dry wine, but the finish is totally dry.  Very good with a slight chill, and just the thing for a warm evening alongside a small steak from the grill and an ear of fresh sweet corn. 13% alcohol and $9.  A bargain.

The corn was the first semi-local corn of the season and was far superior to the fresh corn trucked in from the south. 

With the weather trending hotter there will be more rose in the near future.  In 2009 we had only four days where the temperature exceeded 90 degrees F.  Forecasts call for the next six days to be above 90.  Good for the local grapes after last year's cold and wet vintage, but it means sthe air conditioning will run more this summer. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Corail de Roquefort 2009

The New York Times reviewed rose' wines a few weeks ago and their panel chose the 2009 Corail de Roquefort as their favorite, and also as their best buy.  Since my palate tends to agree with these folks I was delighted to find the wine sitting in a display at the local market.

The wine is from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Vermentino and Clairette and checked in at 12.5% alcohol and was $15.  After a slight chill we opened the wine and drank it with cold chicken slices with mayonnaise and grainy mustard and a salad.  Bright, coppery pink in color the wine had a dry, dusty aroma about it mixed in with some fruit.  The taste was all about just ripe strawberries and white peaches on top of that dusty aroma.  There was almost a Chablis like minerality to this wine.  Very good length of finish for a rose' and absolutely great acid.  At the very end there was a hint of rhubarb.  A refreshingly good wine, and now there are two more in the cellar that will not have to wait long to be consumed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good Wine from a Mediocre Year?

Look at vintage charts or read Italian wine reviews and the 2003 vintage is not exactly one to remember fondly due to excess heat in the summer.

I pulled this wine out of the cellar a couple of weeks ago and decided to give it a try.  The wine is a 2003 Vigneto Montesodi, Castello di Nipozzano, Chianti Rufina from the Marchesi de' Frescobaldi. (Just typing that gave my spell checker a workout).

Say what you want about the 2003 vintage, but this was a very good wine.  Lots of Tuscan dirt in the nose along with bright cherries and herbs.  The wine was full flavored with both red and black cherries, a hint of rosemary, a touch of spice, and some vanilla from oak.  The acid was perfect and there was a fair amount of tannin in the wine, gripping the sides of the tongue.  There was a long, flavorful finish ending with fruit and more tannin.  It matched up just fine with a grilled rib steak finished with olive oil and lemon juice.  It was more than fine.

There was about 1/3 of the bottle left for a second night with some light pasta and salami the wine had blossomed in the bottle.  This was a definite pleasure the second day.  14% alcohol with a regular price of $49.99, but pulled out of a closeout section for $29.99

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Last Two Lobster Wines

The last two wines at the lobster dinner were a 2006 Macon Villages from Louis Latour and a 2005 Marsanne from Black Bart and the Stagecoach vineyard from Napa Valley.

The Macon was light, crisp and pleasant.  A little lemon and a little green grape in the taste, nice acid and a decent finish made for a wine that went down very easy and had zero delusions of grandeur.  It was what it was meant to be, a pleasant wine that was easy to drink.

The Black Bart Marsanne was entirely out of place at this meal.  It was heavy and oily, very sweet and tired the mouth after about two sips.  On it's own as a dessert wine it might have had a place at the table, but at 15.6% alcohol it negated any pleasure it might have had with the lobster.  I really can't think of any meal it might have complimented.

At the end of the night this was the only bottle that still had wine in it, all the others having been consumed. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Release Dinner

The weather turned spectacular on Sunday in this area, from hot, sticky and humid with temperatures in the mid-80 degree range and a lot of rain to no humidity, temperatures in the low 70 degree range and beautiful blue skies.  It was enough to make one hungry and thirsty.

It was time to open a bottle each of the two new releases from Kinkead Ridge  discussed below.  There were some wonderful looking mussels at the market yesterday so we steamed them in some wine and shallots and saffron, cooled them, reduced the cooking liquid and made it into an emulsified sauce with olive oil, garlic, parsley and some lemon juice.  The cooked mussels marinated in some of this sauce for about six hours. 

I put a chill on the River Village Cellars white wine and threw some oysters on the grill and along with the mussels we had a shell fish appetizer that was near perfect.  With its acid  the wine stood up well to the shellfish, and it had a real affinity for the flavor in the mussels. 

The main course was fillet of Alaskan Copper River salmon.  The Copper River salmon is vastly over-priced at $30 a pound, but it is so good that a .65 pound fillet pleaded to come home. That made two small portions. 

The fish was dusted with some shallot pepper and a bit of smoked paprika and grilled outdoors to a wonderful medium rare state.  There were some super thin ribbons of zucchini, yellow squash and carrots sauteed in olive oil, butter and tarragon resting under the salmon.  The 2009 Viognier-Roussanne more than stood up to the rich taste of the salmon and it even picked up somewhat on the fresh tarragon in the veggies. A bit of fish and veggies, a sip of wine, a bite of a crusty roll, and repeat again and again.  Perfect way to spend a gorgeous evening.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Max Ferd. Richter Riesling 2008

Still another wine from the lobster dinner last weekend.  In this case it was a Max Ferd. Richter Estate Mosel Riesling from the anticipated 2008 vintage. 

Beautiful pale color and a nose of honeysuckle and light spice.  Light and delicate at the start the wine was full flavored with lime, honey and slate.  Tremendous acid in the wine that balanced out the sweetness. Good depth and length of flavor.  Nice long finish that ended with the acid and not the honey.  Not the best wine with a lobster but another indication that the 2008 German Rieslings are some seriously drinkable wines.  It will be exciting to try some of the vineyard specific wines when they arrive this summer. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Roter Veltliner

This was the first wine at the lobster fest, opened and gone well before the lobsters were even cooked.  Hey, the kitchen staff has to have sustenance!

This was also the first time to taste and drink a Roter Veltliner, in this case a 2006 Leth Scheiben Lagenreserve.  Very aromatic with some resemblance to Gruner Veltliner but more of a stone fruit, unripe peach aspect to it. The taste was grassy and fruity.   Good acid, but still somewhat soft.  Finish was a bit short.  The bottom line to me was that it was a coarse version of Gruner and for the same price I'll stick with the better and more available wine.  Still, I would try a couple more Roters because I hate passing judgment based on one bottle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Michel-Schlumberger Pinot Blanc 2009

Back to lobster wines....

We also opened the 2009 Michel-Schlumberger Pinot Blanc, La Bise, during the meal. "La Bise" translates as "the kiss." As with the La Vigna Proprietary white wine discussed below this wine saw no oak and did not undergo malo-lactic fermentation. Soft and appealing with a nose of white, spring flowers it tasted of fresh fruit, ultra fresh springtime herbs and bit of lemon peel.  The wine felt good in the mouth and at 12.9% alcohol it was easy to drink.  It was rather tasty with the lobsters.

Good effort in a soft, easy to drink style.   

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Wines, Part Two

The second stop on Monday's excursion was La Vigna winery near Higginsport OH.  They were releasing the second vintage of both their Proprietary White wine and their Proprietary red wine and offering a comparison tasting with the first vintage, a deal impossible to resist.

The Proprietary White is 100% Petit Manseng and just like watching a toddler grow, what a difference a year makes.  The two white wines were very different. The 2008 vintage had seen barrel fermentation and aging and went through the malolactic fermentation as well.  This was an off dry white, bordering on sweet with lots of honey, ripe pineapple and vanilla aromas.  The taste was mostly about the pineapple and vanilla.  A good wine but one that seemed more geared toward the sweet end and one that would be best on its own.

The 2009 vintage was never out of stainless steel, saw no malolactic fermentation and was quite dry.  The pineapple notes were still in the nose but were more subtle. Some citrus notes showed up as well.  The flavor profile was more geared toward stone fruits, golden plums and apricots resting in top of a tart pineapple taste.  This wine needs food and one of the bottles I brought home will be opened with a Moroccan inspired chicken with a curried couscous with dried apricots.

The 2007 and 2008 vintages of the Proprietary Red wine were also available.  The red wines are a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These two were more similar than the two whites, but each was its own wine.  The 2007 is a huge wine with a lot of tannin, a full range of black cherry and cassis flavors and a warm toasty and spicy flavor from the oak. Remarkable length to the finish.  It's a wine I liked a lot last year when I purchased four bottles, but it's a wine that still needs two or three years to really open up. 

The 2008 vintage is a much more approachable wine at this time, but everything needed for aging is still there.  The flavors weren't quite as dark and intense as in the 2007 but the cherries and cassis were still there though tending to be a little redder than in 2007.  There were some good, gripping tannins and some wonderful acidity.  The oak in this wine was much more subtle but it added a complexity I liked.    It's difficult to choose between the two vintages, but if forced to I would opt for the 2008.

One of the things that changed between the two vintages was the barrels.  The 2007 vintage was aged in Kentucky oak barrels with French oaks heads while the 2008 vintage was aged in Minnesota oak with French oak heads.  The grain is much more open on the Kentucky oak and that gave the 2007 vintage the warm, spiciness that was appealing with the darker fruit.  The less noticeable oak in the 2008 wine was due in part to the tighter oak grain.

The bottom line to me is that the 2008 wine has an elegance to it that is lacking in the 2007 vintage.  Both have very good depth of flavor and length but the 2008 has more finesse  and subtlety to it.  Good wines.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Wines

Yesterday was the spring trip down to the Ohio River to taste the new releases from Kinkead Ridge and La Vigna wineries.

2009 was a virtual disaster for production at Kinkead Ridge due to a horrendously wet October, but they managed to salvage two white wines, 126 cases of their Viognier - Roussanne and 42 cases of all the other white varieties blended together.  In this case it was Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillion and whatever other grape happened to have a little juice left in it.  The wine was released under a second label, River Village Cellars, and sold for a whopping $9.  The nose had some honey and some citrus peel, a wee bit of grass, and that pretty much described the flavors as well.  Their was some herbaceous taste to the wine that I liked and I loved the sharp acid.  Medium weight, light, pleasant flavors, nice acidic finish.  For the price you won't beat it.  Good hot weather wine.

The Viognier - Roussanne is usually two parts Viognier to one part Roussanne but this vintage (2009) it became almost a four to one ratio.  This was a very different wine than in the past.  It lacked the depth of flavors and the viscosity that I always liked in this blend, but it was still quite tasty.  This wine is lighter in style but still with a good nose of orange pith, a wee bit of lemongrass and bit of blanched almonds.  The taste goes more into light tropical with some kiwi and ultra ripe peach.  The acid is good and the finish more than acceptable in length.  Easy wine to drink and a very good effort for a poor year.  Sometime this autumn I crack open one of these alongside the last two vintages of the same wine and have a shellfish meal to go along with it.

La Vigna later today or tomorrow.