Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weeds and Wildflowers

Often when the weather turns too hot and too sticky some routine gardening chores get put off, such as weeding.  Sometimes the weeds begin to bloom.  The difference between a weed and a wildflower? Possibly it's just laziness on the part of the gardener.

Nice wine last night - more tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crozes Hermitage

Despite the hot weather, and thankfully we are in the midst of a two day reprieve, one cannot live entirely on summer wines.  Once in awhile you need a big red, especially if there is a large porterhouse steak involved.

The wine selected for the steak was a 2005 J. Vidal-Fleury Crozes Hermitage.  The wine was a medium dark color but the aroma of dark grapes and fresh meat filled the room.  There was a touch of dry leather in the aroma as well.  The taste was all about fruit and some dry earth.  Dark cherries, red plums, a little spice and some vanilla all made for quite a nice package.  Tannins had settled somewhat but were still firm without being harsh in any way and the acid was more than acceptable. 

Not a heavy hitter or a huge wine, but a good, honest, solid red to go with a delicious steak.  $24 and 12.5% alcohol.

Dessert wasn't too bad either.  Fresh peaches hit the local market so there was a fresh peach sorbet to end the meal.

Back to hot, steamy weather tomorrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Good price on swordfish this weekend at the market and pictured above is a large, marinating steak of the fish.  Fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt made up the marinade.  After thirty minutes the steak was pan seared on both sides and then popped into a hot oven for an additional seven minutes.  It came out on the medium side of medium rare, cooked through but still moist inside.  Swordfish is so easy to over cook and so dry when it is overcooked.  Delicious with some fresh pasta tossed a sage and brown butter sauce with fried sage leaves on top. 

The wine was another bottle of the 2009 Abymes discussed a few posts below.  Good pairing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


No walk for the dogs this morning as the skies opened up to the tune of an inch of rain in less than 20 minutes.  The respite was brief as the sun is back out and the temperatures are up again, but it is steamy with all the evaporation.

Last night was a Riesling evening and the wine of choice was a 2007 Wilhelm Bergmann Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Kabinett from the Mosel.  It was everything that a Riesling should be - sharp, tart, acidic, off dry, refreshing, smelling of rocks and citrus, and all around making one very happy.    8.5% alcohol and a mere $8 from a close-out bin.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Better Gin and Tonic

As I've mentioned several times in this blog gin and tonic is just about the perfect hot weather drink.  As a result there are usually several gins in stock during the summer.  Tanqueray Ten, Tanqueray Rangpur, Bombay Sapphire, Citadelle and Plymouth are some of my favorites.  Currently in stock are the Tanqueray Ten and Plymouth. 

My usual recipe is is for a taller drink, and thus less alcoholic, than those served in most bars.  I use a taller glass and add a little more tonic water.

There are two widely available tonic waters in this area, Schweppes and Canada Dry, and occasionally some off brand that pops up on the shelf.   Schweppes has always been the 'go to" brand for me.  That ceased today.

Sitting on a corner display at the market was four-pack cartons of a more expensive tonic water, Q-Tonic.  The packaging caught my eye but the list of ingredients made the sale.  The entire list was water, agave nectar, quinine, lemon juice extract and natural bitters.  What?  No high fructose corn syrup?

With temperatures in the mid 90's today and with a heat index of over  100 it was time for the test.  A glass of ice, a squeeze of lime, two ounces of Tanqueray Ten and  Q-tonic to fill the glass.  There was also a second made the same way but using Schweppes.  The Q-tonic was much less sweet, light and nimble and lip smacking good.  The lime tasted fresher and the bitter element was tart and refreshing.  The Schweppes version was good and what I'm used to but this was like moving from a village white Burgundy to a Corton Charlemagne.  Fortunately the price differential isn't nearly as severe.  A six pack of Schweppes goes for $6 and some change while the four pack of Q-Tonic was $8.  Really good stuff.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2009 Abymes

Along with Chablis and Muscadet an Abymes may be the perfect hot weather wine from France, in this case from the Savoie.

This particular wine is 100% Jacqu√®re and is from the 2009 vintage.  The producer is Roger Labbe from Domaine Labbe.  We discussed the same wine from the 2006 vintage on this site a couple of years ago, and three vintages removed it is still a great little summer white wine.

There's not much aroma but the taste is most like licking a piece of wet limestone.  This is definitely a mineral driven wine.  Tart green apples and green grapes ares there but the minerality and acidity really drive this wine.  Wonderfully refreshing and totally dry at 11% alcohol and $13 a bottle.  That's a two dollar increase since the 2006 vintage, but this is still a bargain and the supply is good.

This wine was a before dinner drink with some Delice du Jura cheese.  This cheese is basically a variety of Savoie's Reblochon made with pasteurized milk instead of raw milk.  The U.S. still doesn't allow the importation of fresh, raw milk cheeses.  This pasteurized version is nutty, earthy, rich and runny.  Soft in the center the cheese just oozes onto crackers and apple slices.  Near perfect with this wine.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dom. Georges Vernay Saint Joseph

It was s terribly hot week that just concluded, and the upcoming one promises to be no better. It's been mostly a beer, iced tea and gin and tonic week.

That can't go on forever so last night we lowered the temperature in the house and lit the grill.  And we decided there would be no wimpy red wines.  Dinner was a dry aged, bone in rib steak and a potato gallette. 

The wine of choice was a 2006 Georges Vernay Saint Joseph.  The cork was pulled about half an hour before the steaks went on the grill and two thirds of the bottle was decanted.   Of course there was an immediate sip or two taken.

The wine was dark purple in the glass and definitely on the young side.  The aromas were dark plums and other dark fruit and that wonderful fresh meat smell that often comes with a good wine from the northern Rhone.  One sniff of the wine and I needed to sniff the steak since there were similar aromas.  The taste was full bore Syrah with lots of fruit and immense tannin to coat the tongue.  There was little elegance to this wine, it was in your face and somewhat rustic.  It was exactly what I was hoping for when I bought the bottle a year or so ago.  By the time dinner was ready the wine had only softened a small bit.  The tannin was still strong and the acid remained high and it was a perfect match with the steak. 

This was my first experience with a red wine from Georges Vernay, who is known primarily for his Condrieu.  The Saint Joseph was equally good and a decent buy at $30.  Alcohol was 12.5%.

The local market has greatly expanded their cheese offerings and we sampled a very good one after dinner in lieu of dessert.  The cheese was a Saint Nectaire.   It had a very rich and soft texture and one could get earthiness from it along with the hazelnuts and mushrooms for which it is known.  Good stuff and it would be great with a dry, crisp white wine.  It was good with the glass of Oloroso Sherry that we drank with it as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Old Friend, New Vintage, World Cup

A couple of years ago the "house red" was the 2003 Vina Alarba  old vines grenache from the Calatayud region of Spain.  It was relatively inexpensive and it was delicious.  Over the course of a year we drank quite a bit of it.  Both the 2005 and 2006 vintages were major disappointments as the alcohol levels soared, along with the over ripe fruit and extraction in the wines. 

Sunday the 2007 vintage found its way from the shelf to my cart at the market.  This evening the cork (plastic) insisted on being released from the bottle.  That turned out to be a good idea and a great way to toast Spain's World Cup win.

My old friend seems to have returned.  The alcohol levels have dropped from 14.5% to 14% and the over ripe flavors have disappeared.  Bright purple in the glass it smelled of sour cherries and strawberries.  It was tart and lit up the mouth with acid and sharp flavors of berries.  There is much less extraction in the 2007 vintage and that made for a more than acceptable dinner wine.  The finish was very cherry oriented and tart.

There was a small, pan seared beef steak, a salad and some crusty roles for dinner.  And there was a really good $10 wine to wash it down.   Good stuff from start to finish.  And since we were toasting Spain we finished the meal with a glass of Pedro Romero Oloroso Sherry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

California and Oregon

The heat finally broke with some rain and Saturday was a much better day.

There was an abundance of Nushagak River king salmon at the market and despite the fact that the previous Saturday was all about salmon there wasn't any need not to make this Saturday the same.  A center cut portion was tossed on the grill and served with a mango and tomato salsa on the side.

There were two wines, a 2006 Hahn SRH (Santa Rita Hills) chardonnay from California and a 2007 Penner Ash pinot noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

The Hahn was a 14.5% alcohol wine that actually showed some restraint.  There was a tropical blossom aspect to the nose but the taste was mostly ripe apricots and crisp apple with just a hint of pineapple and mango peeking through.  There was good acid to the wine, though I would have preferred a bit more.  The finish was luxurious and approached being over the top, but never quite did so.  Nice effort and one I wouldn't turn down if the chance arose to drink again.

The Penner Ash pinot noir was a good comparison to last weekend's outstanding wine, the 2005 Lemelson Stermer Vineyard effort from the Willamette Valley.  The Penner Ash was younger and a little lighter.  The nose and taste were dark red cherries and the deep woods.  There was a suggestion of raspberries going on in the wine as well.  Good amount of tannin and a hint of vanilla, but nothing out of balance.  Nice dry finish that ended with fruit.  Nice pairing with the salmon.

The photo is the hibiscus in front of the house with the remnants of the rain still clinging to it, a visual reference to match the tropical flavor in the Hahn chardonnay.

The smoked salt discussed below was crushed and used to finish the salmon and it did put in some smoky taste to the fish, and that smoke went well with the pinot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


There was a new product on the shelf at the market.  To be correct it is new to me and was a product the market had not carried in the past.   The photo above is salt crystals that have been smoked over hickory.  The product is from Falksalt,  a Swedish company. 

We tried some last night crumbled on top of a small pizza and it gave it a wonderfully smoky taste.  We used a store bought, thin crust brushed with olive oil and piled with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, Provolone cheese and slices of fresh mozzarella. It was sprinkled with some Aleppo pepper and then we crushed a few crystals of the smoked salt over the top.  Eight minute later we opened a beer and had a delicious meal.

Interesting product and a different texture from Maldon salt.  It will be fun to play with.  My head is already getting into a Querciabella Chianti Classico and its slightly smoky taste to go along with this.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer's Heat

Summer is here and so is the heat.  Last year in this area we only experienced four days where the temperature exceeded 90 degrees F.  This year we exceeded that in June, and now that July is here the humidity and the temperatures have both risen.  Yesterday was 94 degrees. Today will be worse, but the outlook for the weekend is better.  Basically, it's been cold beer weather.

Last winter we bought a mixed case of wine that contained a 2008 Barnard Griffin Riesling from Washington's Columbia Valley.  You can check the original notes here.  More popped up in the local market last week and two more came home with me.  Once the weather cools this weekend there will be some ginger shrimp to go with this wine. 

The photo is a rose at dusk.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Yesterday's salmon dinner wasn't solely about salmon.  There were also some very large diver scallops that made their way to the market from from New England.  They were as big as any I've seen here for quite some time, eight to a pound.  They preceded the salmon and served as the appetizer.  A pan was super heated on the grill and the scallops were dried, salted and peppered.  They went in the hot skillet with some olive oil and butter until they browned on the first side.  They were flipped and more butter was added and the scallops were basted with the butter and their released juices while the second side browned.  At the end we squeezed half a lemon into the mix.

The wine was a 2008 Domaine Andre' Neveu, Le Manoir, Veilles Vignes Sancerre from the Loire region of France.  The wine was almost colorless in the glass.  The nose was loaded with freshly cut grapefruit and spring hay, typical aromas for a Sauvignon Blanc but these smells weren't at all shy.   The grapefruit and citrus peel coated the tongue while the grassiness played a lesser role in the taste.  The acid was almost over the top with this wine, sharp, tart, edgy and crisp.  As with the smell, the flavors were not weak or shy.  The herbs came in at the very end of this bone dry wine.  It would be difficult for Sauvignon Blanc to be any better than this bottle.    The scallops were overtly rich and luxurious and the acid in this wine cut through that richness and made everyone want more.    This combination was like a "golden goal" in the World Cup.  A super buy at $26 and only 12.5% alcohol. 

A quick call to the market revealed that they had one more bottle in stock and I will pick it up later today. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Salmon and Pinot Noir

What a delicious day yesterday was.  The weather was in the mid 80 degrees range but the humidity was very low for Ohio at this time of the year, and there were very few clouds.  Just perfect grillling weather.  The local market flew in a plane load of fresh sockeye salmon from Alaska and I picked out a six pound fish for dinner.  It took my favorite fish monger less than a minute so fillet the fish, a skill that makes me envious. 

The day was mostly about Pinot Noir and there were three worthy candidates, a 2003 Beaulieu Private Reserve from Napa, a 2007 Argyle from Oregon and a 2005 Lemelson, Stermer Vineyard from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

When all the tasting and eating was done it was obvious that there was one remarkable wine and two pretenders.  Flatly put, the Lemelson wine was outstanding with the fish.  Dark in color it smelled of fresh black cherries and the deep woods after a rain.  The cherries dominated in the taste, and they were definitely on the darker side.  There was some warm spice and a taste of mushrooms browned in a small amount of butter. There was a slight vegetative aspect to it that not only was not a distraction, it just added to the complexity of the wine.  The acid was more than acceptable and the finish was long and sweet without being over the top.  Salmon is a rich fish and the acid in the Lemelson wine was totally complimentary to the fish.  This was a very serious wine and a truly outstanding effort. 13.5% alcohol and an original price of $45.  Sadly, this was my only bottle of this wine but there are some newer vintages in the market that will probably find their way home with me.

The Beaulieu was thin, somewhat tannic and lacking in fruit.  The wine was very much a disappointment.  The Argyle was a Pinot of a different style.  It was bright and fresh, light weight with young vibrant flavors of tart red cherries.  On its own it was an easy drink, but it was a little overpowered by the salmon.  Good stuff, but not in the same league as the Lemelson.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chianti in the Middle

Along with the oysters and Champagne and the Auslese Riesling discusssed below there was a wine in the middle, a 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico.

Dinner was a thick, veal rib chop marinated in lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and olive oil.    After about forty minutes it was grilled over charcoal along with some yellow squash and zucchini that was dabbed with some of the marinade.   Delicious.

The wine was what I have come to expect from Felsina, a first class effort.  Dry aromas of tart cherries and dirt, followed by those cherries, a healthy dose of tannin and a little spice in the taste and a firm, acidic and fruity finish. 

When it comes down to it I have a preference order for Chianti and Felsina is in a close battle with Querciabella for second place.  Both make me happy, but Fontiodi generally makes me a little happier.